Mary, advocate of grace and model of holiness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, 08 December 2021
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Bella, Stresa, Italia, 2019.

Recently I saw on a Facebook post the photo of American model Kendall Jenner in a swimsuit showing what for many is the “perfect body” in a woman. The photo had reportedly gone viral last year.

What caught my attention was the other photo posted opposite Jenner: that of 19-year-old Alyssa Carson who became the youngest female in history to pass all NASA aerospace tests to train as astronaut for future travel to Mars! The caption said it so well, lamenting the fact how the world gives so much attention to “fashion models” with many going insane imitating their bodies forgetting the more essential like inner beauty and intelligence.

More sad is how we have fixed our human understanding and analogies of a “model” as someone who poses and remains still to be painted or photographed for glossy magazines and giant billboards that people are willing to buy or pay for just to view and let their senses feast on.

It may sound funny but those two photos accompanied me while praying and preparing for our celebration today of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. Sorry, I am not going to show you the link to those photos but wha I want to share with you are the two beautiful expressions depicting Mary as “advocate of grace” and “model of holiness” found in the Preface of today’s Mass (that is the prayer before the Holy, Holy leading to the consecration): “She, the most pure Virgin, was to bring forth a Son, the innocent lamb who would wipe away our offenses; you placed her above all others to be for your people an advocate of grace and a model of holiness.”

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at Einsiedeln Abbey, Einsiedeln, Switzerland, 2019.

So often with Marian feasts, many people complain and find it hard to relate with the Blessed Virgin because they find them as celebrations of the privileges of Mary who was so blessed and unique, thinking she’s almost a god, not human anymore whom we cannot imitate and emulate.

That is totally untrue and baseless!

Of course, only she has the distinction of being immaculately conceived, one never stained by sin but, aside from that, Mary is like all of us, so human; and we too can be like her, full of grace and holy!

Brothers and sisters: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ, in accord with the favor of his will.

Ephesians 1:3-5

Very clear in this reflection by St. Paul in our second reading that our truest destiny is to be holy and without blemish – that is, immaculate. It is the plan of God since the beginning that we all become his people until sin came and destroyed momentarily that divine plan as we have heard in the first reading.

With the coming of Jesus through his sacrifice on the Cross, we were redeemed from sin to become God’s holy people which the same Preface mentions Mary as the “beginning of the Church”. The same prayer reiterates to us our universal calling from God which is to be holy and blameless before God through Jesus Christ. It is very doable and attainable “for nothing is impossible for God” as the Archangel Gabriel told Mary during the Annunciation (Lk.1:37). And Mary is our proof to that!

Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Santuario di Greccio, Rieti, Italy in 2019.

While it is very true that nothing is impossible for God, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception reminds of how God “needs” us to cooperate and participate in his beautiful plans for us like Mary to be his instrument or seedbed for his Divine Word to receive and grow and bloom.

That is the meaning of Mary as “advocate of grace” who became the vessel in the coming of Jesus Christ. See how St. Luke was very clear in narrating Mary’s “supporting” role and place in the plan of God: she remains a human being – not God – like us except she was full of grace, that is, immaculately conceived.

Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:31-33, 35

The Church Fathers used to call Mary as the “aquaeductus ecclesiae” or neck of the Church connecting Jesus the caput or head and us the corpus or body. Mary as an advocate of grace is that vessel of all blessings we now have in Jesus Christ because of her obedience and participation in that plan of God of sending Jesus.

Keep in mind that as advocate of grace, Mary brings us all to Jesus as the one Mediator, not away from him. True devotees of Mary bring others to Jesus not away from him for he alone is the Mediator. A true and authentic devotion to Mary always result in deeper knowledge and intimacy with Jesus and his gospel. Notice this in her apparitions especially at Fatima in 1911 where her messages call us to get closer to Jesus, not her.

Mary continues as our advocate of grace telling us the very same words she had told the servers at Cana to “do whatever he tells you” (Jn.2:5).

Do we do the same? Or, mislead others into putting Mary at par or even above Jesus her Son and Lord? In this time of pandemic, are we like Mary as an advocate of grace, a vessel and instrument of blessings to others or do we grab every credit of “charity” and “kindness”, grandstanding for more media mileage of “likes” and “followers” to be viral and trending?

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at the Cathedral of Barcelona, Spain in 2019.

From her being an “advocate of grace”, Mary thus becomes our “model of holiness” too as she reminds us of God’s original plan for us, created in his image and likeness destroyed by sin with the fall of Adam and Eve. See how God immediately promised salvation through the woman fulfilled in Mary as he reprimanded the serpent in tempting Eve:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will strike you at your head, while you strike at his heel.”

Genesis 3:15

Because of her being the advocate of grace of God by giving birth to Jesus, Mary stands before us as the perfect reminder of Christ’s work of purification and recovery of the image of God in us. Described as the “perfect disciple” and “doer of the Word”, Mary had shown us in her very life which continues to this day in her intercessions and apparitions how discipleship is a life-long process and commitment of holiness. From giving birth to Jesus to his dying on the Cross until his burial, Mary had always been with Jesus that on Easter, it was to her that the Risen Lord first appeared because she was the first to believe totally in him.

At the Pentecost, Mary was with the Apostles awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit that became the coming out party of the Church. In her life, Mary is the model of holiness because she keeps on working with us and in us, guiding us in following Jesus our Lord and Master so that we might be “conformed to his image” (Rom. 8:29).

Photo by author, Christmas 2020.

Holiness is not being sinless but being filled with God who is all-holy, being like Jesus Christ. Mary showed us the way to holiness is being humble before God, seeing herself as the “handmaid” or servant of the Lord.

If there is one thing the world needs now so badly in this time of the pandemic, it is holiness. Before the pandemic came, mankind was so filled with self, so arrogant and proud acting like god, manipulating everything.

How ironic that a microscopic virus with the simplest signs similar to the common colds made the world stood still for some time, reminding us that there is a God all-powerful who is in control of everything.

Through Mary, may this Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception lead us back to God to recover in us his image and likeness, cleansed and purified of our blemishes and wrinkles of sin by having an enlightened devotion to her, the servant of the Lord par excellence. Amen.

A blessed day to everyone!

Being wise, avoiding sin

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2021
Wisdom 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Luke 17:1-6
Photo by author, Israel, 2017.
Thank you dear Jesus 
for the assurance of your
love and understanding 
as well as the fair warning that
"Things that cause sin will 
inevitably occur.  It would be
better for him if a millstone 
were put around his neck and 
he be thrown into the sea than
for him to cause one of these
little ones to sin" (Luke 17:1-2).
I know, Lord, it is not an excuse
but a fact of life that we shall always
be fighting sins and evil while here
on earth as we strive to follow you;
but I know too well, dear Lord, of the
deep pains and sorrows, the widespread 
anguish every kind of scandal brings
to our family and society, most 
specially to the Mother Church.

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, his power, put to the proof rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin.

Wisdom 1:1-4
Forgive us, merciful Jesus,
strengthen us to live in wisdom,
keeping our hearts free from "perverse 
thoughts" so that your Holy Spirit of
instruction may fill and guide us to 
keep us from becoming a "skandalon"
or a rock that causes one to fall and sin.
Amen.

Blessed are those who mourn

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2021
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-24 ><]]]'> 1 John 3:1-3 ><]]]'> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, 05 August 2021.

For the second time since last year, all roads do not lead to the cemeteries this November 1-2 due to the pandemic. While there is still that annual exodus to the provinces, the government has preferred to keep cemeteries closed despite the many casualties of COVID-19 while allowing malls and other establishments to operate, including the opening this week of favorite destinations of Baguio and Tagaytay.

Most unkind of all is how thousands of people were allowed including children to visit for several days Manila Bay’s newest attraction, the dolomite beach while cemeteries remain closed and religious gatherings still limited as this government is more concerned in “resurrecting” the economy than considering as “essential” at this time the people’s religious and spiritual needs.

And so, we mourn for the second straight year this November 1 and 2 not only for our departed loved ones but for the benighted souls of this Administration.

But, have a heart as we find solace and comfort in Jesus Christ who encourages us every year on this first day of November with his teachings on the Beatitudes which we hear proclaimed every Solemnity of All Saints. The Beatitudes reveal the mystery of Jesus Christ who invites us to enter into a communion in him by expressing also the meaning of being his disciples. Jesus is in fact every Beatitude – the one who is truly poor in spirit, the first to be persecuted, the one with a clean heart, and the peacemaker.

For this year, let us reflect on the second beatitude which we find very close to our situation under the COVID-19 pandemic as most of us have lost a family member or friends.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:1-4

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

In a world that thrives and promotes so much fun and merry-making, our second beatitude is difficult to understand or even grasp in this time of the pandemic. What is “blessed” with grieving and mourning when you have lost a loved one so suddenly, without having the chance to even see them before they were cremated?

There are two kinds of mourning that the gospels offer us exemplified by the two most extreme of the Apostles, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and, Simon Peter who denied the Lord thrice (see “Jesus of Nazareth” by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, The Beatitudes, pp.86-89).

The first kind of mourning as shown by Judas Iscariot is when one has lost hope, succumbing to the miseries of losing a beloved and becomes mistrustful of love and of truth that leads to self-destruction. It is the worst kind of mourning that eats away and destroys man within just like Judas Iscariot who hanged himself.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

The second kind of mourning that Jesus must be referring to as “blessed” which leads to salvation is when the mourning is caused by an encounter with the truth that leads to conversion like what happened to Simon Peter who was struck by the gaze of Jesus that he burst into healing tears and cleansed his soul to enable him to begin anew in his life in the Lord.

Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord… He went out and began to weep bitterly.

Luke 22:60-61, 62

This will have its lovely conclusion eight days after Easter before Jesus ascended into heaven when he asked Simon Peter thrice, “Do you love me?” (Jn.21:15ff.) to remind him of that episode that eventually pushed him to follow Christ unreservedly “by taking care of his sheep”.


Blessed are those who weep because first of all, they have love in their hearts. Deaths and bad news that befall our loved ones sadden us, even jolt us with deep pain that move us to console them, to suffer with them, and to be one with them by reconnecting with them and their loved ones like when we go to a funeral or a wake.

This did not happen with Judas Iscariot. The little love he had in his heart when he realized his sin was completely wiped out when he chose to surrender totally to evil, finding no more hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus. When grief becomes so overpowering and consuming, it totally wipes out the embers of love left in our hearts and like Judas, that is when we choose to die miserably sad and separated from God who is love.

Never lose hope in Jesus. Seek that love in your heart. Seek Jesus in that tiny voice telling you to always come home to him. Do not be shy nor ashamed of your loss and failure. Keep that fire of love in Jesus burning.


Blessed are those who weep because more than the love they have in their hearts, they have been loved first of all. We weep and grieve the death of a beloved family member or relative or friend because of the love they have given us, of the kindness they have shown us, and the care they have lavished us.

Simon Peter did not merely have love in his heart. Luke dramatically described to us how Peter’s eyes met the merciful and loving eyes of Jesus while he was denying the Lord. It must have struck him so hard that immediately he felt contrition for his sin, feeling strongly the need to reform himself and reconnect with the Lord. He could not let the imperfect love he has in his heart to just go to waste that is why when he wept bitterly on that Holy Thursday evening, it was not the end but the beginning of another chapter in his beautiful story of love for Jesus. It was precisely what he meant when he told Jesus at Tiberias, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn.21:17) – that despite his weaknesses and failures, he loves Jesus, he tries so hard to love Jesus in his little ways.

When in the midst of great sufferings and pain specially after we have sinned or we have lost a loved one, we are blessed as we mourn and grieve because that is when we realize strongly our weakness and limitations that we reach out to God, to be nearer to him. To desire God in itself is always a grace and a blessing too!


Photo by author, 2018.

Blessed are those who mourn because that is when we actually stand for what is true and good, for what is just and right.

When we weep, it does not mean we have lost; in fact, even in the face of apparent loss like Jesus on the Cross, mourning is the most firm expression of our belief in what is right and just, and what is true and good.

The best scene for this kind of blessed mourning that leads to salvation is found at the death of Jesus Christ where his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the foot of his Cross with her cousin Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple John (Ibid.,p. 87).

By standing at the foot of the Cross and later carrying in her arms the dead body of her Son Jesus Christ called La Pieta, Mary showed us that mourning is blessed because it is the strongest depiction of our solidarity with God, of our going against evil and sin.

In this world when conformity to whatever “everyone is doing” is the rule of the game like corruption, dishonesty, infidelity, lies and manipulation of people, mourning and weeping with the victims of oppression and persecution can be our strongest signs of protest and resistance against the prevailing evils of our time.

When we weep and mourn for victims of violence and evil, that is when we become God’s instruments of his comfort to his people. From the Latin words cum fortis “with strength”, to comfort means to strengthen those persecuted or oppressed or those facing intense sufferings and tests.

When we weep, when we grieve and mourn over a lost beloved or a lost cause, that is when God comforts us, when he makes us stronger in resisting evil and sin.

Ultimately, that is when our mourning leads to salvation, that is why blessed are those who mourn and weep.


What are your griefs today?

What do you mourn?

Blessed are you in your weeping not only in having love in your heart but most of all, for being loved. Dwell in the love of God in Jesus Christ like the saints who have gone ahead of us, resisting all evils and temptations to sin for the Lord comforts us his people always. Amen.

A blessed All Saints’ Day to you!

When the spirit is willing but flesh is weak…

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. John Paul II, Pope, 22 October 2021
Romans 7:18-25  ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 12:54-59
Photo by author, 2019.
Thank you very much, 
dearest God our Father 
for knowing me so well like
St. Paul, of how I constantly have
to wage that battle against evil 
deep within me.

Brothers and sisters: I know that good does not dwell in me, that is, in my flesh. The willing is ready at hand, but doing the good is not. For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. So, then, I discover the principle that when I want to do right, evil is at hand.

Romans 7:18-21
There is an ongoing war deep within
each one of us between what is right
and good and what is wrong and evil;
there is always that inner struggle that
even if we know the right thing to do,
sometimes we choose what is wrong 
and sinful not simply because we are weak
as humans; like St. Paul, we are not 
offering an excuse to you but ask for
your grace for us to be responsible 
to our decisions and actions for it is 
only in admitting our guilt and sinfulness
can we truly see and follow you.
This inner battle between good and
evil within us are in fact the very roots
of the bigger wars and strife we have
among nations and peoples, of the more
pernicious indifference and self-centeredness
we choose daily in the face of widespread
poverty and hunger, corruption and deceptions
not only in our streets but also right in
our own homes and houses of worship.
Send us your Holy Spirit, Lord Jesus
to enlighten our minds and our hearts
to be able to read spiritually the things
happening in us and around us, 
that we may be able to judge for
ourselves what is right.  
Let us grow in the courage and wisdom
of St. John Paul II, your great Pope who
lived and served us with great example of
his life waging war against the many evils of
our time, standing for what is true and good,
your voice in this wilderness, telling us to
"be not afraid" to love like Jesus your Son
with Mary his Mother.  Amen.
From Twitter.com.

Claiming God’s grace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 October 2021
Romans 5:12, 15, 17-19, 20-21   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 12:35-38
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com
Praise and glory to you,
our loving God and Father
in giving us so much hope today,
inspiring us to be better, to be free
to choose and follow you,
to love and serve you in one another.

Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through justification for eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:20-21
Let us live in your Son
Jesus Christ, in the realm of grace
than live in Adam in the realm of sin
and death, enslaved to our passions
and selfish desires.
Let your Holy Spirit work within us,
dear Jesus, to allow us to live in a way
pleasing to God our Father.
Like the psalmist, enable us to proclaim,
"Here I am, Lord; I come to do your will."
Open our eyes to the reality,
O God, of the two kinds of humanity
pervading:  the sinful humanity and the
redeemed humanity in Christ;
how sad that so often, especially
in the news we read and follow,
it is always the humanity in solidarity
with Adam in sin that seems to prevail.
Let us claim your abounding grace,
"girding our loins and lighting our lamps"
to be focused more on our justification
found in your righteousness in Christ.
Amen.

Miserere Friday

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 October 2021
Joel 1:13-15, 2:1-2   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 11:15-26
Photo by author, Franciscan Monastery on Mt. Nebo, Jordan, 2019.
God our merciful Father,
thank you very much for this
wonderful and blessed Friday!
Everybody loves Friday
primarily because it is the weekend
to work and school leading to
Saturday and Sunday rest.
But for me and my brothers, 
we love this because it is 
"Miserere nobis" Friday
when we pray Psalm 51:
"Have mercy on me, God,
in your kindness.  In your compassion
blot out my offense.  O wash me
more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin."
Help us to cleanse our selves
most especially today in 
memory of your Son's
Good Friday; may we heed
the call of your prophet on a
daily basis to keep ourselves 
clean.

Gird yourselves and weep, O priests! Wail, O ministers of the altar! Come spend the night in sackcloth, O ministers of my God! The house of your God is deprived of offering and libation. Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; gather the elders, all who dwell in the land, into the house of the Lord, your God, and cry to the Lord!

Joel 1:13-14
So many are our sins against you,
O God, that people have not only turned
against us priests but most of all, they have
turned away from you largely because
we have misled and abused them.
Cleanse us with your mercy and
forgiveness in Jesus Christ your Son; 
exorcise us of our many demons
possessing us, allowing ourselves
to be overrun by evil and sin.

“When an unclean spirit goes out of someone, it roams through arid regions searching for rest but, finding none, it says, ‘I shall return to my home from which I came.’ But upon returning, it finds it swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and brings back seven other spirits more wicked than itself who move in and dwell there, and the last condition of that man is worse than the first.”

Luke 11:24-26
Let Jesus your Son
reign in our hearts and soul,
let him be the sole power within us
for he is the most powerful of all,
the only power there is;
let us welcome him inside us
to keep us clean
lest we sin more
and become worst
than before.
Amen.

The “Little Way” to God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin & Doctor of the Church, 01 October 2021
Baruch 1:15-22   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 10:13-16
Photo by author, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father in heaven
who opens so many ways for us 
to be with you, to experience heaven
while here on earth; Tuesday you showed us
the path of martyrdom of St. Lorenzo Ruiz 
and companions; today, we celebrate
your Little Flower, St. Therese of the Child Jesus
who taught us her "Little Way" to you 
with her writings, prayers and short life.
But we all know that whether 
it is the "big" way of martyrs or the "little way" 
of St. Therese, it is always one and the same path 
of Jesus Christ our Lord who is "the way and 
the truth and the life" (Jn.14:6) that we implore
you dear Father through him your Son
that we may be gifted with docility and trust
in you like that of a child.
Most of all, may our obedience and trust 
in you dear God be rooted in that love for you
which you have sowed ever since in our heart
and soul if we could only be humble enough like
St. Therese to admit:

“Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love.”

St. Therese of the Child Jesus
O merciful God our Father,
in this age of social media where
everyone is vying for exposures
and shots to prominence,
make us realize that life is not a show
to perform but a gift to cultivate and
nurture in our relationships with you
through others; give us the sense of
sinfulness to be ashamed of our arrogance
and pride before like Baruch and St. Therese:

During the Babylonian captivity, the exiles prayed, “Justice is with the Lord, our God; and we today are flushed with shame, we men of Judah and citizens of Jerusalem… We have neither heeded the voice of the Lord, our God, nor followed the precepts which the Lord set before us… but each one of us went off after the devices of our own wicked hearts, served other gods, and did evil in the sight of the Lord, our God.”

Baruch 1:15, 18, 22
May this pandemic period
be a purifying process for us, O God,
that in the midst of sufferings and
hardships like St. Therese we rediscover
and realize your loving presence
in Christ Jesus.  Amen.
Photo by author, 01 October 2019.

And God said, “Sanaol”!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXVI-B in Ordinary Time, 26 September 2021
Numbers 11:25-29 ><]]]*> James 5:1-6 ><]]]*> Mark 9:38-43, 45, 47-48
Photo by author, 2019.

One word I recently learned during my two week quarantine due to colds is the expression “sanaol” – short for “sana all” which is from “sana lahat”. Formed by combining the Filipino expression in making wishes “sana” and the English “all” for everyone, sanaol is said when you hear the blessings received by another person, wishing everyone is also blessed with same good things that range from ordinary things like food and money to girlfriend or boyfriend!

As I prayed over our readings this Sunday, I realized it must have been God who originally expressed “sanaol” on two occasions, first through Moses while in the desert and secondly through Jesus while with the Twelve at Capernaum.


From Twitter.com, 2019.

With God, sky’s the limit in doing good

It is so amazing this Sunday in our two readings how God sees us all as his children, his chosen people so blessed abundantly yet against this background is the human response of exclusivity and entitlement. Of pride and selfishness.

Consider how in the first reading when Joshua asked Moses to stop two men, named Eldad and Medad, from prophesying simply because they were not with him in the tent in meeting God while at the desert.

But Moses answered him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets! Would that the Lord might bestow his spirit on them all!”

Number 11:29

“Sanaol prophets!” could have been the resounding reply by Moses to Joshua who misunderstood God’s freedom in bestowing his blessings to everyone. So many times not only with God but even with our own family, relatives or friends who have been generous with others that we stop and prevent them from sharing their goods, thinking we are doing a great service in jealously guarding their prerogatives.

Again, here we find like last Sunday our failure to find God in our way and journey in life that even his gifts we try to limit to ourselves.

At the least, it is a simplistic and myopic view on God’s and other’s generosities while at its worst, a selfish attitude within us to constrict God and others in giving away whatever good things they have.

Let us not forget the basic truth on the nature of God’s gifts and grace as ways and means for being of service and for the good of the community. Why limit those blessed to share gifts and blessings? Besides, God or whomever is totally free to give away whatever they have without denying or impoverishing anyone by giving away goods to others.

Photo from inquirer.net, May 2021.

This is the teaching of Jesus to the Twelve who reported to him how they have tried to stop someone from exorcising in his name because he did not belong to their group.

Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.”

Mark 9:39-40

“Sanaol good and helpful!” could have been the Lord’s reply to his disciples, reminding them the most obvious truth that with God and everything that is good, there can be no labels and divisions or groupings. We are all one in God our Father who is the source of all good; hence, we must neither monopolize the right to do good nor belittle the good others do even if they are not one of us or do not belong to our fold.

The Lord knows very well his own, we need not worry about such petty things on who’s who or to whom belongs whatever. God knows everything. What matters most is we keep on doing what is truly good so that despite the limitations we have in this life, we continue to strive to create a just and humane society here on earth as envisioned by Vatican II in Lumen Gentium.

Sin: the only limitation

If sky is the limit in doing good with God, Jesus reminds us today that the only limitation and obstacle in our lives is sin. The Lord is very clear with this truth that he had to explain things in details to the the Twelve lest they fall into this big trap.

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed than with two hands to into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye that with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna.”

Mark 9:42-43, 45, 47

“Sanaol understand” that all good gifts can come only from God, that is why we have to respect the freedom and conscience of everyone in the good deeds they do. Whoever keeps the laws of God faithfully are always blessed abundantly. No religious barrier nor label can hold that in check.

When pride and selfishness move into one’s heart, then everything is destroyed and made dirty. Recall how Jesus declared last month that “Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile” (Mk.7:15). We have to examine our selves closely so as not to destroy the beauty of goodness and ability to do what is good planted in each of us by God.

Photo by author, 22 September 2021.

Here we are challenged by Jesus to closely examine our being his disciples, of how close have we been in knowing him as our Lord and Master.

Is it Jesus whom we are following or our very selves, our own thoughts and ideas of who is Jesus Christ not as he is?

Notice how in our gospel this Sunday we are presented with contrasts, first, of doing good that is without limits and committing sins that delimit us doing what is good, not affiliations and labels.

But the most wonderful contrasts we can find that gives us a clearer picture of life are found in Jesus: his meekness especially the sinful contrite of their sins and his sternness with the self-righteous who highly regarded themselves like the Pharisees and scribes, assuring they would never enter the kingdom of heaven because of such attitude; his open-mind with those doing good outside his circle of disciples and his strict demands of being good that whatsoever you do to the least you have also done to him.

Here we discover there are no compromises with Jesus, no gray areas that he demands everyone to “say yes if you mean yes and no if you mean no” (Mt.5:37) because the more we get closer to him, the more we realize the coherence of his teachings and of his person as the Christ of God.

It is always the same Lord who speaks, who is truth and life himself. Unlike us humans who suddenly change our stand and views on everything when tempted with money and riches. This is the reason why we have this portion of the letter by St. James: we are dared to examine our attitude with regard to riches and material wealth because it clearly reveals our world view in life. A lot often, attachment to earthly goods show our lack of belief in eternal life toward which this temporal life is directed. Jesus himself we cannot follow him if we are slaves to money and riches for you cannot serve both God and mammon.


Photo by author, Caesarea in Israel, 2017.

Three Sundays ago at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked us like the Twelve, “who do you say that I am? (Mk.8:29)”. It is a very crucial question demanding from us a personal answer so we can truly enter into a deeper relationship with him and be able to forget ourselves, carry our cross and follow him.

The more we get to know Jesus, the more we can see him clearly, the more we will love him dearly, and the more we become like him eventually, willing to leave everything including wealth and riches of the world for the love of God through others. Amen.

“Sanaol follow Jesus!” Have a blessed week ahead.

Remembering, forgiving

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 22 September 2021
Ezra 9:5-9     ><)))*> + ><)))'> + ><)))*>     Luke 9:1-6
Photo by author, 2010.
In this month of September,
help us remember O God our Father
our collective history as a nation
like Ezra your servant:

I said, “My God, I am too ashamed and confounded to raise my face to you, O my God, for our wicked deeds are heaped up above our heads and our guilt reaches up to heaven. From the time of our fathers even to this day great has been our guilt, and for our wicked deeds we have been delivered up, we and our kings and our priests, to the will of the kings of foreign lands, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to disgrace, as is the case today.”

Ezra 9:6-7
Help us remember our sins not to blame
and deepen the wounds of the past
but to learn from the lessons of the 
mistakes and abuses that have happened;
help us remember our sins 
to understand its roots so we may not 
repeat them again; most of all, 
help us remember our sins 
so we may realize your immense
love and mercy for us 
in never forsaking us.

“For slaves we are, but in our servitude our God has not abandoned us; rather, he has turned the goodwill of kings of Persia toward us. Thus, he has given us new life to raise again the house of our God and restore its ruins, and has granted us a fence in Judah and Jerusalem.”

Ezra 9:9
In your strange providence,
loving God our Father,
you have used the pagan kings
of Persia to set your people free
from the Babylonian captivity;
in the same manner,
you have never left nor abandoned us
through our painful experiences
as a result of our captivity in sin and evil
to see your love and compassion,
enabling us to turn them into
opportunities for personal growth
and maturity in our spirituality
by deepening our sensitivity to
the sufferings of others caused by
evil and sin.
We pray today, O God
that we may be agents of your mercy
like King Cyrus of ancient Persia,
most especially as disciples of your Son
Jesus Christ sent out to proclaim
the coming of good news of salvation.
Amen.

Our splinter and beam, Christ’s Cross

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 10 September 2021
1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Luke 6:39-42
Photo by author, April 2019.

Jesus told his disciples: “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove that splinter in your eye,’ when you do not even notice the wooden beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! Remove the wooded beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye.'”

Luke 6:42
O God our loving Father:
So many times we act so silly
as if we have never learned 
from your prophets and then your
Son Jesus Christ and down to 
his Apostles and saints, notably
Paul.
So true are the words of Jesus
your Son when he told us how 
we would always see the splinter
in our neighbor's eyes without 
ever seeing the wooden beam 
in our own eyes!
But you know, dear Father,
what makes me rejoice this Friday?
Indeed, splinter and wooden beam
we all have right in our eyes that
we cannot see or even refuse to see
and remove; yet, there you are
in your infinite mercy you sent us
Jesus Christ to remove these 
splinter and wooden beam in our eyes
through his wooden Cross!

I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and an arrogant man, but I have been mercifully treated because I acted out of ignorance in my unbelief. Indeed, the grace of our Lard has been abundant, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.

1 Timothy 1:13-14
Larger and heavier
was the wooden Cross
willingly carried by Jesus Christ
for our own sake so we may
be cleansed of our sins and
cleared of our blindness
to walk your path of holiness;
loving Father,
teach us to be like St. Paul
to admit our sinfulness,
to voluntarily remove both
the splinter and wooden beam
in our eyes so we may see you
more clearly,
love you more dearly,
and follow you more closely
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.