Making room for God, finding our home in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year I, 23 July 2021
Exodus 20:1-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:18-23
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from commons.wikimedia.org
It has been raining for a week,
loving God and Father.
Farmers and sowers must be so
delighted to come out in the fields
to sow their seeds while we stay home
trying to keep ourselves dry and warm.
Help us to make room for you, dear Father,
to open up ourselves to the seeds 
of your presence that come to us daily
in your words in the Sacred Scriptures.
Let us be like the fertile soil in the parable
by Jesus "who hears the word and 
understands it, who indeed  bears fruit
and yields a hundred or sixty or 
thirtyfold."  (Matthew 13:23)
Your seed is always good
springing into life wherever it falls
for you alone, O God, is good!
How lovely it is to imagine
that all Ten Commandments sprang up
from just one seed that is YOU, dear Father -
You are the seed we always reject
when You are the seed we all need.
Whenever we choose to commit sin,
we take on other strange gods
and idols besides You that
we worship and follow.
May we open ourselves to You, God
welcoming you like a seed into our little room
so we may find home in You when it blooms.
Amen.

Easter is obeying God than men

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Easter, 15 April 2021
Acts 5:27-30   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:31-36
Photo by author, dome of the chapel at Shepherd’s Field, Bethlehem, the Holy Land, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from the first reading invites me to examine my attitude when somebody or something reminds me of my sins and sinfulness. What a shame that too often, we are like the members of the Sanhedrin who refused to acknowledge their complicity in your crucifixion, much less even mention your name.

When they heard this,
they became infuriated
and wanted to put them to death.
(Acts 5:33)

Forgive us, Jesus, when our worldliness prevents us from seeing you and others, when we tend to see only ourselves that we do not care at all to others, thinking we have a monopoly of truths, of having so many excuses and alibis defending ourselves.

We pray most especially to our government officials led by the president himself who continues to see himself self-righteously, maligning his detractors and critics despite the many deaths and sufferings of the people especially the poor.

We pray for their blind supporters that you open their minds and hearts that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29) as Peter had told the Sanhedrin during their trial.

Most of all, dear Jesus, only you has the power to cast away all evil and convert hearts: we pray for our leaders and their blind supporters to be reminded always that it is only you “who comes from above is above all” (Jn.3:31), that there is no other God except you!

How sad and tragic that while this pandemic is raging around the world, so many people, world leaders and nations are acting as if they are gods who are above all, doing everything that pleases them, unmindful of you and of others.

For so long, our government leaders have been “rationing God’s gift of the Spirit” (Jn.3:34), feeding us with half truths and worst until now, they have no definitive plan in containing the pandemic except quarantines that have severely affected the poor.

Like the psalmist, we trust only in you our Lord and our God.

The Lord confronts the evildoers,
to destroy remembrance of them on the earth.
When the just cry out,
the Lord hears them,
and from all their distress
he rescues them.
(Psalm 34:17-18)

Amen. Amen. Alleluia, Amen!

Lent is uncovering our sins

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Fifth Week in Lent, 22 March 2021
Daniel 13:41-62   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   John 8:1-11

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for the gift of life, for this final week of Lent you are giving us to continue uncovering the sins we hide from you, from others and even from ourselves. And worst, the sins of others we bare to cover our own sins.

How wonderful are your words today, Lord, of two women accused of adultery – one falsely, the other guilty – but, the same story of your justice and mercy.

Susana in the first reading was spared from death when her two accusers who were both elders and judges of the people were convicted of perjury following the courage and wisdom of your prophet Daniel.

As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, and he cried aloud, “I will have no part in the death of this woman.” All the people turned and asked him, “What is this you are saying?” He stood in their midst and continued, “Are you such fools, O children of Israel! To condemn a woman of Israel without examination and without clear evidence? Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”

Daniel 13:45-48

Stir in us, O God the same Holy Spirit that like Daniel we may have the courage to defend and stand for those wrongly accused of any wrongdoing whether in our homes or community or in the courts.

I pray most especially for women who are often at the receiving end of false accusations, of gossips and of hurtful lies. The victims of rape and molestation and sexual harassment cry in the silence of their deep pains and sufferings just because they are women and sadly, because their accusers are men of stature and position. Send us more Daniels, dear God to defend them.

Let us take into our hearts the challenge of your Son Jesus Christ to let the one who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at anyone guilty of sins (Jn.8:7). It is not that we must be silent with the evil persisting around us but so we may be cautious against hasty pronouncements and judgement against those guilty of any sin.

Worst of all is when we accuse sinners of evil they are guilty of doing only to cover our own sins we have been hiding from you and others, even foolishly from ourselves. Give us some decency, at least like those people, “beginning with the elders (Jn.8:9)” who left guilty of sins without casting any stone to the woman caught in adultery.

Have mercy on us, Jesus, when we act like those Pharisees and scribes who look for sinners, accuse them in public in order to look good and find something against you. Amen.

The color of Lent is also green

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Third Week in Lent, 12 March 2021
Hosea 14:2-10   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 12:28-34
Photo by author, December 2020.

When we were growing up, you know it so well, God our Father, how we fondly recited a rhyme from “Mother Goose” that says: “Roses are red, violets are blue; Sugar is sweet, so are you. And I love you!”

How lovely is this elementary rhyme for the great truth it imparts even in this season of Lent when our motif is violet for repentance which is also the shade representing fidelity, modesty, humility, and simplicity that to give a violet means “I love you too in response to what a red rose says, “I love you”!

To be sorry for sins is a great expression of love; but, to forgive like you dear God is the greatest expression of love!

And that is why, while violet expresses our love for you by being sorry for our sins this season of Lent, then, it can be rightly said that the color of Lent is also green for wherever there is love flowing from contrition for sins and its forgiveness, then there is found life in you!

When there is love, there is always life — like the verdant shades of green you told Hosea in the first reading today:

I will be like the dew for Israel: he shall blossom like the lily; He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar. Again they shall dwell in his shade and raise grain; they shall blossom like the vine, his fame shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Hosea 14:6-8

Remind us always, Lord, that Lent need not be dry and drab; it is characterized by joy and life because of the love and mercy you have poured upon us through Jesus Christ. What a lovely scene that finally today in the gospel, a scribe came to Jesus not to debate him but be clarified of which is the first of all of the commandments.

May we imitate that scribe to come to you to sincerely seek wisdom and truth with a humble heart so we may realize that to love God above all means loving one’s self and loving others too at the same time. That love of God is always expressed in the face of every person we must see as a brother and a sister in Christ.

Let us return to you, O God in Jesus through others so that life may bloom again in us and around us. Give us the grace of contrition, to be sorry of our sins so our hearts may be cleansed to finally see how roses are red, violets are blue turning to shades and hue of green when life blooms in YOU. Amen.

Photo by author, December 2020.

Praying to control anger

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 March 2021
Monday, Third Week of Lent, Memorial of St. John of God
2 Kings 5:1-15     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     Luke 4:24-30
Photo by author, NLEX in Pampanga, January 2021.

Yesterday in the gospel you were angry, Lord Jesus, when people turned the temple into a marketplace that made you drove them away along with their animals and doves being sold, scattering the coins of money changers who have set up shops in your Father’s house.

Today we find in our readings some people getting angry and we hope to learn some lessons from you regarding this misunderstood emotion in this season of Lent.

First to get angry was King Joram of Israel when he received a letter of recommendation from the Aramean king seeking a cure for Gen. Naaman’s leprosy.

When he read the letter, the king of Israel tore his garments and exclaimed: “Am I a god with power over life and death, that this man would send someone to me to be cured of leprosy? Take note! You can see he is only looking for a quarrel with me!”

2 Kings 5:7

So many times, we burst into anger not really of a present situation before us but of things that happened in the past or worst, things that are mere imaginations or suppositions we have in our minds like King Joram of Israel. Teach us to be open with the present situation before us; make us understand what is being asked of us. Disarm us of our mistrusts and suspicions of others as if people are always seeking a fight with us (when in fact we are the ones who are quarrelsome like the king of Israel).

Then, there was also the famous Syrian general Naaman who got angry when Prophet Elisha did not come out to meet him, feeling being “snubbed” despite his stature:

Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stopped at the door of Elisha’s house. The prophet sent him the message: “Go and wash seven times in Jordan, and your flesh will heal, and you will be clean. But Naaman went away angry, saying, “I thought that he would surely come out and stand there to invoke the Lord his God, and would move his hand over the spot, and thus cure the leprosy.”

2 Kings 5:9-11

Much ado about nothing! So often we are like Naaman getting angry more because of pride, of expecting so much from others on how we should be treated with importance.

Forgive us for our fits of anger just because we felt not treated with honor, forgetting the more essential things we need in life like healing than massaging our ego. There are times, Lord, we get angry when we do not get what we expect or demand from others. Teach us openness and humility too. Make us learn to be discerning on the more essential things in life like you, O Lord, the one who truly heals and blesses us!

And lastly, in the gospel we find the people getting angry with you, dear Jesus because you spoke the truth.

When the people in the synagogue heard this, they were all filled with fury. They rose up, drove him out of the town, and led him to the brow of the hill on which their town had been built, to hurl him down headlong.

Luke 4:28-29
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Anger is an emotion that must be released positively like with what you did at the cleansing of the temple, Jesus.

Most of the time, the devil rides on our anger to lead us into sin, even to grave sins like murder or slander because we are “hurt” by truth like those people listening to you at the synagogue. They could not handle the hard truth about their pride and bloated egos that they wanted to kill you after telling them of their lack of faith in God.

Help us get to the roots of our anger, to accept who we are so we may not be overcome by anger and thereby not sin that much anymore.

Let us control our anger and not let anger control us. Amen.

A shamefaced prayer

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Second Week of Lent, 01 March 2021
Daniel 9:4-10     ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><     Luke 6:36-38
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

On this first day of March in the second week of Lent, we borrow, dear God our Father this wonderful prayer by the Prophet Daniel. It is so sincere, filled with contrition because of admission of sin and guilt:

“Lord, great and awesome God… We have sinned, been wicked and done evil; we have rebelled and departed from your commandments and your laws. Justice, O Lord, is on your side. We are shamefaced even to this day: we, the men of Judah, the residents of Jerusalem, and all Israel, near and far, in all the countries to which you have scattered them because of their treachery toward you. O Lord, we are shamefaced, like our kings, our princes, and our fathers, for having sinned against you.”

Daniel 9:4, 5, 7-8

What a beautiful prayer for us especially this Lent, a prayer to be shamefaced which we need at this time when we have lost our sense of sinfulness, when more often we think of our many alibis and arguments in committing sins but never admitting nor owning them.

Detail of the Seventh Station of the Cross at the Parish of St. Ildephonse in Tanay, Rizal with the high priest Caiaphas wearing dark glasses. Photo by author, January 2021.

Forgive us, Lord, for our shamelessness in sins and evil when we should have long been shamefaced like the people of Judah during their Babylonian captivity.

Forgive us, Lord, most especially when instead of being shamefaced with our sins, we even defend and take pride in the evil we have done, filled with arrogance, lacking in any compunction at all.

It is this lack of being shamefaced with our sins that leads us too to being judgmental of others’ misgivings and evil. As a result, many of our relationships fall out because as we refuse to admit our sinfulness, we stop being generous in our love and mercy, kindness and goodwill.

This Lent, give us some sense of shame again, Lord. Mahiya naman kami maski sa aming sarili, Panginoon. Amen.

The joy of Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after Ash Wednesday, 19 February 2021
Isaiah 58:1-9     <*(((><  +  ><)))*>     Matthew 9:14-15

Today I remember, O Lord, our old days of yore when Fridays were of simple food of all fish and veggies without any meat, of how we were told to remember this day so special because of Good Friday even if it were not the Season of Lent.

Austerity and low key were all over as peg to make your presence, O God, during Lent that the prevailing mood was more of joy than of being somber and serious as most people would think these days of fasting and abstinence as self-inflicted sufferings and pains.

Forgive us this modern age of instants and affluence, fasting has become centered on our very selves, with our “piety” like the Pharisees (Matt.9:14) who questioned Jesus why his disciples did not fast unlike them and the followers of John.

Enlighten us on this first Friday of Lent to realize anew that this is a season of joy and rejoicing because when we fast, we become empty of ourselves, of our filth and sins so we can be filled with your Holy Spirit to become your vessels of justice and love and joy with one another.

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke; setting free the oppressed, breaking every yoke; sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless; clothing the naked when you see them, and not turning your back on your own.

Isaiah 58:6-7

How lovely and beautiful the world must be if we shall heed your words, fulfill your longing from us in true fasting more focused only in making you present among us who have gone to choose darkness over light.

O God our Father, give us the wisdom and courage to return to you so we can offer ourselves for others to feel you as we await the great rejoicing of Easter, the very joy of Lent. Amen.

Opening to God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 12 February 2021
Genesis 3:1-8     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Mark 7:31-37
Photo by author, Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, 07 January 2021.

Listening to your words as the day unfolds, dearest Lord, I have realized that not all “opening” is good after all. Sometimes we want to open so many things in ourselves that only lead to opening to sin and evil, instead of opening to truth and peace and justice found only in you.

Teach us, O God our loving Father, to open only to you and completely trust you in your opening to us because it is when we start opening other possibilities like gaining more knowledge, more life, more of ourselves that we actually start closing out from you like in the story of the fall of man.

The woman saw that the tree was good for food, pleasing to the eyes, and desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized that they were naked. When they heard the sound of the Lord God moving about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:6-7, 8
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.

So many times in life, dear God, we cannot accept other’s openness because we are so closed to ourselves. There are times that instead of going out into the open, we hide from you as if we can conceal what is exposed and open.

Open our eyes to see you in ourselves, to see ourselves in you and in others too.

How funny that in the gospel today, your Son our Lord Jesus Christ, healed a deaf man by opening his ears. And in doing so, he first “took him off by himself away from the crowd” (Mk.7:33), then healed him by looking up to heaven, groaning with the word “Ephphatha!” (that is, “Be opened!”).

Ultimately, Lord, it is always easy to open our eyes and see or, open our ears and hear without really opening ourselves, opening our hearts that connect all senses into our whole being.

What matters most which we all pray today is to open us, O God, to you completely so that we may see and listen with our hearts inclined to you. Amen.

Advent is God making us laugh

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Second Week of Advent, 10 December 2020
Isaiah 41:13-20     <*(((><<   +++   >><)))*>     Matthew 11:11-15

Thank you dearest Father in making us all “risible” – the ability to laugh, the gift of having sense of humor for, if there is truly any sign of being alive, it must be when we laugh. And it must have only come from you, O God, for you are the fount of wit and wisdom.

Just like today. You are so Fatherly in telling us,

I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I will help you.”

Isaiah 41:13

Then, suddenly like most human fathers, you tease us while declaring your love,

Fear not, O worm Jacob, O maggot Israel; I will help you, says the Lord; your redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 41:14

You are so funny and witty, Lord! You assure us of your love and like kids, you called your chosen people worm and maggot?!

Thank you for making us laugh, dearest Father as you tease us full of affections, calling us “worm” and “maggot”.

Thank you for the gift of wit and humor that while teasing us for who we really are, so low and dirty due to sins, we feel deeply inside how much you love us. You are not mad nor exasperated with our sinfulness but simply telling us how we have truly behaved. And that is what most funny about — you still love us, you still call us, you still want to save us even if we are not worthy.

So true are the words of our responsorial psalm: “The Lord is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and of great kindness.”

Indeed, we are so blessed that even if we are “the least in the Kingdom of heaven, we are greater than John the Baptist” who was the greatest of all people born of women during the time of Jesus because we have lived in your time of coming and salvation (Mt.11:11).

May we always be open and humble before you, O God, to be able to see the many joys of living tucked in our sense of humor that helps us recognize your Advent in the midst of many darkness. Amen.

*Photos above by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018-2019.

From “cage” of sin to heavenly wedding

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 November 2020
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9     >>>  +   <<<     Luke 21:20-28

Praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ for your words today that offer us with clear images about true freedom that leads to fullness of life. So often, many among us are greatly misled by the belief that true freedom is breaking free from sufferings and God and morals, of having absolute freedom to do everything.

That has always been one of the fundamental tenets of pagans of ancient Rome you have banished for being a “cage”, an imprisonment!

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a haunt for demons. She is a cage for every unclean spirit, a cage for every unclean bird, a cage for every unclean and disgusting beast.”

Revelation 18:2, 21

True freedom is choosing what is true and good, trying to bear all pains and sufferings that purify us into better persons, that free us from impurities to enter into your heavenly banquet of eternal life.

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:9

Life continues to bear down upon us these days, Lord, especially the poor who are left with almost nothing in this life; worst, with nothing else but their dignity as persons, there are times they are being forced to give it up for a price.

Give us the grace of perseverance, to withstand all pressures by holding on to you, clinging to your merciful love that amid all the trials and sufferings going on, we may “stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand” (Lk.21:28).

Let us not be ashamed of being faithful to you, Jesus, for you alone can lead us to true freedom as a person. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King celebrations in the parish, 22 November 2020.