Agere contra (acting against)

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 09 July 2021
Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 10:16-23
Photo by author, Malagos Garden Resort, Davao City, 2018.
Praise and glory to you, 
God our loving Father;
thank you for another week
thank you for this brand new day
thank you for this gift of life
and thank you for 
reassuring us of your love 
and saving presence.
Then he said:
"I am God, 
The God of your father.
Do not be afraid
to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you 
a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt
with you; I will also bring you back here,
after Joseph has closed your eyes."
(Genesis 46:3-4)
Many among us, dear Lord
are like Jacob moving to Egypt:
lives are disrupted
routines are broken
due to sickness and other trials in life;
assure them too of your presence
and please, bring them back home
 safe and well.
Keep us faithful to you, Father.
When trials and difficulties come,
we are always shaken
and tempted to find the easy way out;
worst is when things become unbearable,
we plead to you for an end of sufferings
without realizing that is when you are closest
to us in your Son Jesus Christ. 
Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Behold, I am sending you 
like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents
and simple as doves.
You will be hated by all
because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end
will be saved."
Please grant us the wisdom
and humility to live our lives 
in true freedom to you, dear God;
to let go of our false securities and 
comfort zones, the "agere contra"
according to St. Ignatius of Loyola
so we may grow truly in you 
who has the final say on everything.  Amen.

Engaging the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the XIVth Week, Year I in Ordinary Time, 06 July 2021
Genesis 32:23-33   > + <   Matthew 9:32-38
Photo by author, Agony at the Garden of Gethsemane, the Holy Land, 2019.
Your words, O Lord
of Jacob wrestling with you
or, your angel (?) 
reminds me of Jesus Christ's
own agony in the garden.
And for me, it is one of sweetest
scenes in the whole bible,
the finest example of an animated
and engaging relationship
with you, dear God our Father.
Jacob was left there alone.
Then some man wrestled 
with him until the break of dawn.
When the man saw that 
he could not prevail over him,
he struck Jacob's hip at its socket,
so that the hip socket was wrenched
as they wrestled.  Then the man said,
"You shall no longer be spoken of as Jacob,
but as Israel, because you have contended
with divine and human beings
and have prevailed."
(Genesis 32:25-26, 29)
Loving Father,
forgive us when we "box" you
as being stern and stiff like the police
waiting for our slightest mistakes
and violations; surprise us, dear God
with your intimacy, closely engaging
wrestling and contending with you
to bring out the best in us
 and still see your very best plans
that cleanse and purify us of our intentions.
Grant us the grace of intimacy
that is most surprising
when we have to wrestle
with you like Jacob and be "Israel"
so that your might and your truth
will always prevail
unlike the Pharisees who were afraid
to get closer to Christ and be purified
that they vilified and later crucified
to hide in their weaknesses and sins.
Grant us courage and strength
dear God in engaging with you
realizing our limits 
humbly surrendering to your will
like Jacob at Peniel;
let us be not like those Pharisees
who refused to contend 
by insisting their contempt for Jesus
thinking they can prevail on him
only to reveal their evil within.
Amen.

Surprising Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Cycle B, 04 July 2021
Ezekiel 2:2-5 ><}}}'> 2Corinthians 12:7-10 ><}}}'> Mark6:1-6
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2015.

There are only two instances in the gospels that say Jesus was surprised or amazed: first is in his hometown of Nazareth as we have heard today when “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk.6:6) and the second is in Capernaum when a Roman centurion asked him to heal his sick servant. When Jesus obliged to come with him to heal the servant, the Roman officer declared, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed. When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt.8:8, 10).

What surprises Jesus most is our faith in him. Or, its lack like the people of Nazareth.

Last Sunday, he dared us to examine our faith in him when he brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus. On their way, Jairus was told his daughter had died, that there was no need to bother Jesus anymore; that’s when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36). Reaching his home, there was commotion on the dead child but later, everybody was “utterly astounded”(Mk.5:42) after Jesus brought her back to life.

Today, St. Mark deepens our reflection on the need to have faith in Jesus by telling us a surprisingly sad episode in the Lord’s life and ministry of being rejected right in his native Nazareth:

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. so he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:2-3, 5-6
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

The need for faith

For the past three weeks, St. Mark has slowly introduced to us that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah or Savior through his teachings and miracles like healing the sick, pacifying a violent storm at sea in the darkness of the night, and bringing back to life the dead child of Jairus.

However, it is not enough to “know” who Jesus is.

Knowing Jesus – or anyone – will not matter at all unless we believe in him and enter into a relationship with him lest we end up like his folks who “knew” him as the carpenter and son of Mary, wondering where he got all his wisdom and power.

And worst, “they took offense at him”. As we would say in Filipino, “pinersonal nila si Jesus.”

But, that is what faith is – something very personal because it is a relationship. No relationship can mature and grow unless there is faith. The deeper and stronger the faith, the most wonderful is the relationship because despite all the troubles and sufferings that may come, the ties remain because of faith.

That is why it St. Mark is telling us today the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, of how even the Son of God experienced failures and rejections, calling us for a deeper and firmer faith in him who alone is our Lord and Savior. Aside from sickness and deaths in our lives, there are many other pains and heartaches, disappointments and failures and losses in our lives that if we do not have faith, we can never make it through with Jesus.

Yes, Jesus is with us in this journey of life in the many seas to cross while in darkness amid violent storms; but, we have to believe in him first before he can make his moves in our favor like in Nazareth where he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” due to their lack of faith in him.

Photo by author, altar in my room at the Fatima National Shrine, Valenzuela City, February 2021.

Surprising Jesus with our faith

Too often in our lives, we have boxed God as being stiff and stern, a disciplinarian watching us for our sins and mistakes. Wrong! God sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we may experience his tender mercy and love, his personal relationship with each of us.

Unlike most of us, Jesus is a touch person, so sensitively human, not numb, always feeling us in our gestures and looks and words like that Roman centurion at Capernaum, that sick woman in the crowd last Sunday, the widow of Nain and the sisters Mary and Martha. They all moved and touched Jesus with their grief and sufferings, and most especially with their faith and joy and confidence in him.

Most beautiful in these stories of Jesus being surprised and moved by humans are the more surprising kindness and blessings he bestowed on them – like in our own experiences! Notice that when we were so surprised by God with his blessings, that is when we have also surprised him with our faith.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we continue to listen and speak his words of justice and truth. In this age of faith in a mass mediated-culture, we find the voice of God drowned in the cacophony of many sounds competing for everyone’s attention where the ones that prevail are those appealing to the senses that are both easy and pleasurable. Through media manipulations, what was unacceptable was first made to be tolerable until it has become acceptable like promiscuity and “safe-sex”, divorce and same sex marriage, birth controls and abortions. Any discussion of God and religion, ethics and morality and values are dismissed as limiting and narrow-mindedness or worst, as being old-fashioned and conservative. In modern man’s effort to be “fair” and “all-encompassing”, the human person has been reduced to technicalities and legalese, replacing life with lifestyles.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Ezekiel 2:4-5

Jesus shows us today in his unhappy homecoming to Nazareth that even if people refuse to listen, we continue with our prophetic role of proclaiming his good news of salvation “in season, out of season”.

Even if nobody listens, even if we do not win converts or followers, we are prophets of God like Ezekiel, the voice of God, of his justice and truth amid a rebellious and wayward generation. Like John the Baptist, we are the voice in the wilderness preparing the coming of the Lord by speaking the truth, calling people to repentance and conversion.

Though God speaks in silence, our being silent in the midst of evil worsens the sinful situation as we shut doors among humanity leaving no room at all for Jesus to come and work his wonders among us. Be the voice of Jesus, be his opening, and be ready for great surprises happening soon!


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we remain standing with him at his Cross, bearing all pains and wounds with him. In this age of affluence and convenience characterized with everything instant in a click of a button, modern life has become sedentary to our own detriment. As we prefer to be seated more than standing, we have become so passive, avoiding every form of pain and suffering that make pain relievers as the most prescribed and widely used medication these days.

See how we quarrel over our places of “seat” everywhere – at home and school, office and community and parish, public and private transport – as they connote powers without realizing that what matters most in life is where we stand because that is when we are defined as a person for our faith and values in life, when we most surprise Jesus as he surprises us most with his strength like what St. Paul had realized:

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Great things begin to happen in us, in our lives when we are out standing for Jesus, with Jesus because that is when we are truly one in him as he passed over our miseries and sins to rise again with him and in him in his Resurrection.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we are filled with joy and love in him despite everything. To love and be joyful like Jesus calls for a deep faith in him, to be kind and merciful even when others are rude and unforgiving. Notice how these days it takes a lot of guts to be good. And we are so amazed with them!

On the other hand, notice when we hear news of a band of people who are inconsiderate, corrupt, unkind, selfish, and proud: are you not surprised they are filled with anger and hate and negativities?

During the persecution of the early Church, Christians were easily spotted and rounded because they were amazingly loving and caring with the marginalized like the poor, the sick, the widows, the old, and the orphans. Pagans were most surprised that the more they persecuted the Christians, the more they grew in number! It is one of history’s most surprising facts but, that is how God moves, so unusual in the most surprising ways.


Have you been surprised by Jesus lately?

Try surprising him with your great faith in him and you will be surprised greatly by him!

Have a blessed Sunday! Amen.

Photo by author, flowers at the Pater Noster Church outside Jerusalem in Israel, 2019.

“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland (1939)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 20 June 2021
Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, a rainbow appeared during our Blessed Sacrament procession at the start of the lockdown, 22 March 2020, in our former parish at Bagbabuin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

Movies are great sources of good music. We cite two movies today for our featured Sunday music in relation with our Gospel when Jesus pacified a violent storm while they were crossing the Lake of Galilee in the middle of the night (https://lordmychef.com/2021/06/19/jesus-amid-our-storms-in-life/).

From the 1939 classic film The Wizard of Oz sang by Ms. Judy Garland which also became her signature song, Over the Rainbow that was also featured by Hong Kong film director John Woo in the 1997 action movie Face/Off starring John Travolta and Nicolas Cage.

While praying over the gospel this past week, I remembered Woo explaining why he inserted the music Over the Rainbow in the violent gunfight scene of Face/Off between Travolta and Cage where Nicolas placed a headset on “his” son as they shoot out with the FBI:

“When I was young my life was very difficult — almost like a living hell. But when I heard Judy Garland sing this in The Wizard Of Oz, I suddenly felt as if I was on the other side of the rainbow, in heaven, in a place full of hope. When I used it in Face/Off, it was to say thanks for showing me that the world is still full of beauty.”

John Woo, 24 April 2014, https://www.empireonline.com/movies/features/john-woo-personal-playlist/

Woo is such a great director that aside from his beautiful choices of music for his movies, he always used symbolisms like white doves in trying to show the good side of life no matter how violent and bad is the scene or story.

And that is the meaning of our gospel this Sunday: there will always be a lot of darkness and storms in our lives that sometimes we feel and think God does not seem to care like when Jesus was sleeping soundly at the stern of their boat during a squall in the middle of the night as they cross the lake. His silence does not mean he does not care; moreover, he is silent because he had won over a long time ago at his Cross every evil and suffering in this life!

He was the first one to pass “over the rainbow” who now assures us of reaching the shores of safety and peace, joy and fulfillment with him and in him. Hence, this Sunday let us cultivate an intimacy in Christ to be reconciled with God our Father who alone is our surety in this life who had promised Noah with a sign of the rainbow as an assurance he shall never destroy earth.

In the movie Face/Off, Woo masterfully sequenced the song playing at the high point of the gunfight when Nicolas Cage’s “son” was caught in the cross fires:

 Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me

Try watching Face/Off this Father’s Day and reflect on Judy’s music to find faith in God anew that after all these storms in life during the pandemic, there is a beautiful rainbow to delight us.

*We have no intentions of infringing the copyrights of the music except to share its beautiful message. Thank you.

Jesus amid our storms in life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 20 June 2021
Job 38:1, 8-11 ><}}}'> 2 Corinthians 5:14-17 ><}}}'> Mark 4:35-41
Photo from vaticannews.va.

More than a year ago in March, Pope Francis delivered an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi Message before an empty St. Peter’s Square reflecting on the gospel we heard today when COVID-19 began to wreck havoc upon us, claiming about 3.85 million deaths worldwide as per latest data show.

We are still in the same darkness, in the same storm but much have already changed since the pandemic first struck us last year. Jesus had calmed the seas and the storms with some relief offered by vaccines. Our journey continues as we cross this sea of the pandemic to safer shores.

Like the Pope’s Message last year, we must continue to call and trust in the Lord but at the same time, realize the deeper spiritual meaning of this pandemic, of the need to have a more intimate relationship with God through Jesus.

On that day, as evening drew on, Jesus said to his disciples: “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took Jesus with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up.

Mark 4:35-37

Life is a constant crossing of the sea in darkness with Jesus.


See that in our journey in life, 
it is when evening comes, 
when there is darkness 
that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea.
When there are problems and crisis in life, 
that is when Jesus calls us 
to get to the other side of life's situation.
On his side.  

I love that imagery painted to us by St. Mark in our gospel today, from a casual preaching last week out in the open field with the warm sun shining, Jesus invited his disciples when it was getting dark to cross to the other side of the Lake of Galilee.

Life is a journey that when evening approaches, our instinct is to find a safe place to spend the night. But, today St. Mark shows us a more appropriate imagery of life as a journey which is like crossing the sea.

See that in our journey in life, it is when evening comes, when there is darkness that Jesus invites us to come with him to cross the sea. When there are problems and crisis in life, that is when Jesus calls us to get to the other side of life’s situation. On his side.

And what a beautiful expression we have in “to cross to the other side”! There is always the cross to carry in this life that is like the sea, the uncertainty from our usual sureties like family and friends, jobs, and the status quo because Jesus wants us to have him alone as our surety in life.

A few years ago a Malaysian Air plane perished at sea; despite all the modern technologies, it has not been found yet. It is a reminder to us all of how vast is our world with so much mysteries impossible for humans to master or even fully understand.

Yet, our gospel and first reading assure us that though the world is awesome with great wonders and occurrences, its Creator – GOD – is more awesome for he alone has complete control over nature, especially the sea which is the most difficult of all!

The Lord addressed Job out of the storm and said: Who shut within the doors the sea, when it burst forth from the womb? When I set limits for it and fastened the bar of its door, and said: Thus far shall you come but no farther; and here shall your proud waves be stilled!

Job 38:1, 8, 10-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, off the coast of Catanduanes, 2017.

Our awesome world, more awesome God.

St. Mark’s description of the situation inside the boat with Jesus asleep in the middle of a violent storm at sea is very surprising that seems to be exaggerated like in the movies for dramatic effects not to entertain us but to remind us of that basic reality found in his entire gospel account that Christ came to usher in a new world where never again shall sin and death prevail over us.

Recall the other scenes he would later show Jesus exercising total control over the sea like when he walked on water amid a storm (Mk.6:45ff) and ordered a legion of demons to enter a herd of swine that drowned into the sea (Mk.5:13).

As the Son of God, Jesus has total sovereignty over the sea that symbolized the realm of evil, exorcising it to free us from its clutches when he finally died on the cross.

In the first reading, we heard the fictional story of Job being assured by God who got everything under control, even the mighty sea, putting a limit by stilling its proud waves.

In our gospel, we see the reality of God in Jesus Christ calming the storm at sea.

Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?”

Mark 4:38-40
Photo by author, crossing the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, May 2019.

Notice Jesus was sleeping soundly, not disturbed at all neither by the storm with its giant waves that tossed their boat nor the commotion and yelling of his disciples. He was so composed and serene.

The same scene we shall see again when St. Mark tells us how on the night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was betrayed and arrested to be tried by members of the Sanhedrin. It was all dark with Christ so composed and relaxed answering the questions of his enemies while outside was Peter so afraid, denying the Lord thrice while the rest of the apostles went hiding out of fear for their lives.

What a beautiful imagery of our Lord and of us!

Here is Jesus so composed and serene as always while us on panic mode, so terrified, even reproaching God – “do you not care that we are perishing?” – when our lives are threatened as if God does not care at all.

When we look back to last year, it was very frightening like that situation the disciples were into: nobody knew exactly the nature of COVID-19, without any known cure and method of treatment, people were dying daily, and life was at a standstill due to the lockdown.

But, with faith in God, we have moved on. Some weddings finally pushed through, students went back to school while others dared to venture into new businesses and other endeavors, crossing the sea so to speak amid the darkness. Those who got married last year now have their first born while students who enrolled last year have graduated and we who risked to move on are now better off than before.

Had we waited for the pandemic to end before deciding to enroll back in school or find a job or get married, we would surely be into great losses for there is still the pandemic that will most likely remain until 2022 or beyond.

As we have reflected last week, Jesus continues to work in silence in us, with us and for us, making us grow like the tiny seed. He never abandons us especially in times of great trials. This we have proven when we dared to venture in life during this pandemic.

Let us entrust to him our very lives for he alone has total sovereignty in this world and in this life for he himself is life – more powerful than any storm who has the whole world, especially the seas, in his hand.

A life centered in Jesus


We cannot wait for things to get better, 
for the pandemic to end, 
for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially.  
It is right in the middle of a storm 
when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, 
to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us.

After Jesus had pacified the storm and the sea, St. Mark briefly ended our gospel story by telling us how the disciples “were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”(Mk.4:41).

More than the stories of the Lord’s teachings and miracles, St. Mark wants us to make a stand for Jesus, to center our lives in him as we journey in this life, whether in the ordinariness of parables, the safety of the open field and high mountains, or the dangers and perils of the sea at night, with or without storms.

Remember Nightbirde last week who said, “You can’t wait until life isn’t hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” We cannot wait for things to get better, for the pandemic to end, for us to be well physically, emotionally and financially. It is right in the middle of a storm when we are expected to make a stand for Christ, to rely on him who is most often silently journeying with us as St. Paul tells us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us… So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come.

2 Corinthians 5:14, 17

Now more than ever in our modern history that the whole world needs a lot of healing and reconciliation. But unlike the proposals of experts, it is not merely a reconciliation of peoples with one another. We do not need a “new normal” which is a misnomer because a norm does not change. What is true and good and fair would always be true and good and fair at all times.

That is what we need, to bring back the true normal in life which is a reconciliation of every person with God so that we may see our world in a more wholistic sense that we become more just and humane.

There can be no true reconciliation among peoples unless there is first of all our reconciliation with God in Jesus Christ so that we become in him a new creation, new persons filled with his love and mercy, justice and kindness. Of course, there will still be many storms as we cross the many seas of our lives but they will be less frightening if we have Christ on board, even if he is soundly asleep. Amen.

Have a bright and sunny week ahead!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, Binuangan Is., Obando, Bulacan, May 2021.

True unity in God is love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Seventh Week of Easter, 20 May 2021
Acts 22:30-23:6-11   ><)))'>  +  <'(((><   John 17:20-26
Photo from inquirer.net

How should we pray today, Lord Jesus Christ when you are the one praying for us? How wonderful indeed that at the Last Supper, you have already thought of us who would come to believe you 2000 years later. And what a beautiful prayer you have for us all – that like you and the Father, we may all be one in love!

Lifting up his eyes to heaven,
Jesus prayed, saying:
"I pray not only for these, but also for those 
who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one, as you, Father,
are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me."
(John 17:20-21)

Yes, Lord Jesus: being one is being like you and the Father, a unity expressed in love and mutuality. It is a unity that comes from above, from you, and not simply from below or from us that is so fragile, so easily broken because of so many divisions within our very selves and among us.

Exactly what St. Paul had wittingly exposed when he spoke before the Sanhedrin – the polarity in beliefs of their religious leaders at that time, of the Pharisees who believed in resurrection and in angels and spirits and the Sadducees who refused to believe in these at all.

Teach us, Lord, to be witnesses of your love and unity in the Father in this time when unity is seen more as uniformity than oneness in diversity that spawns respect for one another.

Let your prayer be on our lips today so that in our lives of witnessing to your love and unity, the more we make you and the Father present in this world that has come to reject spirituality, accepting only what is materially tangible.

"Righteous Father,
the world does not know you, 
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name
and I will make it known, 
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them."
(John 17:25-26)

We pray, O Lord, for those losing hope in humanity, for those who have become cynical that we can still change and work for a better tomorrow as a Church and as a nation. Amen.

Maturing in Jesus our true vine

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 05 May 2021
Acts 15:1-6  ><)))'> + <'(((><   John 15:1-8
Photo by author, Mount St. Paul Center for Spirituality, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father 
is the vine grower.  He takes away every branch 
that does not bear fruit, and everyone that does
he prunes so that it bears more fruit.  
You are already pruned 
because of the word that I spoke to you."
(John 15:1-3)

Thank you very much, Lord Jesus Christ, for finding me, taking me, and making me a branch of you our true vine. Most of all, thank you that I have been “pruned” because of the word you spoke to me.

But, what does it really mean to be pruned?

Yes, it has been a very, very long and tedious journey with you, Lord Jesus. And just maybe, I have grown and been fruitful after all those years in having identified with you closely and with your values and ideals. However, it is not enough.

I know… the pruning never stops until it is only you who is seen in me as I fade from the scene.

I could feel my need for more pruning, Lord, especially at times when I still insist on myself, on what I believe, on what I see as most important for you and for others.

Like those early Jewish converts to Christianity, particularly those who belonged to the party of Pharisees insisting that Gentile converts must be circumcised and observe other prescriptions of the Mosaic law (Acts 15:5).

There are still many things to be pruned in me, a lot of trimmings here and there that need to be cut off and removed until the “me” in me is totally gone, and only you remain.

Preparing for a Mass by the shore of Lake Tiberias in Capernaum, 2017.

Pruning is painful, Lord, but as time goes by, as the Father prunes me unknowingly in daily prayers and striving to be patient and better person, perhaps it is slowly bearing fruit as I begin to see you more clearly in my life.

And all the more the pruning must continue until everything becomes new in me!

Keep me open to you, dear Jesus, like the Apostles and the presbyters who met together to see about the issues raised by the Jewish converts to Christianity in the first reading.

Let me be open to other possibilities of meeting you, of sharing you, of working in you and with you by denying some of my natural appetites and tendencies.

Give me the grace to gladly and willingly give up whatever I hold on and keep that is contrary to you so that in the end, You are are my only joy and consolation, O dear Jesus. Amen.

Are we proud of our love for God?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 04 May 2021
Acts 14:19-28   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:27-31
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King, 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"but the world must know that 
I love the Father and that I do 
just as the Father has commanded me."
(John 14:31)

Your words today, dear Jesus are so striking. It was your “last supper” with your disciples before you were betrayed and then crucified. You were reassuring your disciples, telling them – and us – not to let our hearts be troubled or afraid as you give as your peace (Jn.14:27).

Those last words you have said struck me deep inside as a person and as your disciple. It is a wonderful feeling to be in a loving relationship with God our Father through you, in you, and with you. But, it made me feel so ashamed too at the same time of how I take for granted this relationship with the Father.

Am I also proud like you, dear Jesus, in making “the world must know that I love the Father”?

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to be willing to carry my cross and be crucified for what is true and just, for what is faithful and loving.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to keep on praying even if nothing good seems to be happening in our lives.

To make the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is to let me surrender myself to your will and power, to let go and let God by setting aside my own plans and agenda in life so that his will is done not mine.

Making the world know that I love the Father like you Jesus is letting myself decrease so that you may increase in me!

Grant me, O Lord, the zeal and courage of St. Paul in the first reading who continued preaching your good news despite his being stoned and rejected by the people in the cities they have visited. How amazing of all that after being driven out from the city, St. Paul even came back to preach your gospel of peace and mercy!

 They strengthened the spirits of the disciples
and exhorted them to persevere in faith, saying,
"It is necessary for us to undergo many hardships
to enter the kingdom of God."
(Acts 14:22)

Shame on me, O Lord! Please forgive me for never thinking like you that “the world must know that I love the Father” through my life of witnessing, of sacrifices, and of loving service to others.

Forgive me, sweet Jesus, in backing out from the mission and work you have entrusted me when I face some discomforts and pains, when rejected and unaccepted or even disliked by people I try serving.

Grant me the gift of perseverance like St. Paul and St. Barnabas in proclaiming your good news in words and in deeds, in season and out of season. Make me proud of you and the Father always, dear Jesus, by being more loving and humble with others. Amen.

From a Facebook post.

Easter is “taking your place”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter, 14 April 2021
Acts 5:17-26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:16-21
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago, 2019.
But during the night, 
the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, 
led the Apostles out and said, 
"Go and take your place in the temple area, 
and tell the people everything about this life."  
When they heard this, they went to the temple area 
early in the morning and taught.  
(Acts 5:19-21)

Your words today, O Lord Jesus are so encouraging: “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.”

Oh yes, dearest Jesus, give us the courage and zest to go and take our place where you have designated us to proclaim your good news about this life especially in this time of the pandemic.

Take away our fears and doubts, our complacencies and laziness in stopping and putting on hold our mission from you, your plans for us because of this pandemic. Let us focus on you, Jesus, and forget all about fame and rewards nor faintest recognition in “taking our place” to do your work.

During your mortal life here on earth, Lord, you could not proclaim the kingdom of God beyond the Holy Land. Now you have risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, those bonds and barriers have been broken through your apostles down to us your modern disciples. Keep us faithful in telling the people everything about this life which is so beautiful, so precious, so worth saving!

Like you who have faithfully took your place to tell us everything about this life, may we share you to everyone we lovingly serve.

God so loved the world 
that he gave his only-begotten Son, 
so that everyone who believes in him 
might not perish but might have eternal life.  
(John 3:16)
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2016.

Dearest Lord, please bless and keep safe those who continue to take their place the Father has reserved for them like you our Savior. We pray for their well-being and safety, for their fulfillment in you our Lord and God.

Bless first of all our medical frontliners, everybody working in the hospitals who continue to take their place and tell people everything about this life despite the great dangers and risks of getting sick.

Bless all Dads and Moms, couples and their children who remain faithful to you, avoiding sins, seeking you in prayers daily amid the great difficulties of balancing economics and well-being.

Bless all teachers and students in this difficult period of on-line classes as well as those in their limited face-to-face classes that all their efforts will someday bear fruit in their professional lives and earn them eternal rewards too.

Bless your priests, Lord Jesus, especially those faithfully serving your flock, celebrating the Holy Mass even without your people, giving the sacraments and praying for those lost and weak souls due to this pandemic. Wake up your tepid priests, awaken the moral fiber of your unfaithful priests.

Bless those in news and social communications that despite the dangers of this pandemic they continue to search and report the truth. Encourage those being harassed and threatened like your Apostles before in telling the truth, in exposing and unmasking evils in government and the society.

Bless everyone of us, Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be faithful to your call, that we may always have the courage to take our place amid this pandemic and continue to lovingly serve one another, especially the weak and the poor. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, March 2021.

Images of COVID-19, Images of Hope, Part 2

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 09 April 2021
Photo by author after celebrating “private Mass” first day of lockdown last year, 18 March 2020.

The reality – and gravity – of the lockdown hit me most that Wednesday morning when I celebrated Mass alone. Without the usual faces and voices of our regular Mass goers who greeted me daily upon opening our church door since I came to my former parish in 2011, I just felt something so unique.

And special.

It was as if Jesus was making some “lambing” (tender moments) with me as his priest.

For so long, I have been celebrating Mass on weekdays with at least five people present that there were times it had become mechanical like a routine, sometimes even like a “show” that it has to be good so that I look good, sound good, and everybody feels good.

But on that first day of the lockdown, as I prepared everything from removing the altar cover to bringing out the books and sacred vessels to celebrating “alone” with some birds keeping me company, I somehow felt Jesus most truly present.

Just him and me, at his altar, in his church.

Photo by author, two birds after my private Mass during the lockdown last year.

That was how I realized deep within me the beauty and sanctity of the Holy Mass not in the external things we see and hear but most of all in my intimacy and union with Jesus Christ as his priest.

With or without the congregation, every Holy Mass is the summit of the priest’s life and very existence because that is where his union in Jesus Christ our Eternal Priest is most true.

The way the priest celebrates the Mass – his disposition, his attitude, the way he looks and keep things in order – all indicate his oneness with Jesus Christ. Liturgy flows from the heart of the priest and from that springs our social action and involvement.

How sad when some priests has made the lockdown an excuse not to celebrate the Mass at all.

In depriving himself of the essential union with the Lord and Master, in effect he has deprived his flock the much needed strength from the Good Shepherd.

Even without the pictures and videos of the priest celebrating the Mass sine populo (without the people), that is the most wonderful and most treasured image of COVID-19 only God sees because it is the most sublime image of his Son Jesus Christ present amid this pandemic.

Every word in the Lectionary and the Sacramentary, every moment of that private Mass during the lockdown was like a “cosmic experience” where the eternal and the temporal converge as if time stands still, with these words echoing in the silence of the universe within me:

"...you never cease  to gather a people to yourself,
so that from the rising of the sun to its setting 
a pure sacrifice may be offered to your name."
(Eucharistic Prayer III)

Images of COVID-19,
Images of Hope,
Images of Christ

Two Sundays after the lockdown last year came the Holy Week ushered in by Palm Sunday when we went around the parish blessing the palms and fronds of people who have gathered on the streets after our announcement in Facebook and online Mass.

Skies were overcast that morning that we decided to visit first the other end of our parish, Purok Gulod, where we experienced rains and saw the beautiful rainbow the other Sunday.

Nobody saw the lockdown coming. Most of the people did not have the ready-made palms and instead had branches of leaves and fronds available in their surroundings which we blessed while on board our borrowed Ford F-150 after the Mass that morning attended by a few parish volunteers.

But the most touching images of COVID-19 that Holy Week last year happened on the Good Friday procession of the Santo Entierro we have mounted on a truck, brought around the parish after the Veneration of the Cross at 3PM.

From images of COVID-19 as images of hope, the sights have transformed into images of Christ suffering and dead among the people who knelt and prayed while others cried on the streets during procession.

Since it was a Good Friday when there was no holy water, I brought the crucifix with which to bless the people not only on the streets but also those in their vehicles passing by during the procession.

It was very edifying.

How I felt Jesus described in the gospel while going around preaching the good news to all towns and villages:

At the sight of the crowds,
his heart was moved with pity for them
because they were troubled and abandoned,
like sheep without a shepherd.
(Matthew 9:36)
Passing through Purok Gulod where people lighted candles too.
With Kuya Ver sounding the matraca to alert the people…
With Kuya Leonardo the caretaker of the Santo Entierro. Since I came there in 2011, he always brought along the children from their Purok Gitna to pray the Rosary aloud. After each mystery, we would sing some religious songs with “Kristo” as their favorite, singing in unison, “Kristo, Kristo bakit minsan ka lang nakikilala…”

I can still remember my short homily during that Good Friday’s Veneration of the Cross: I told the people that while we were so sad with what was happening due to the pandemic, Jesus was surely more sad with what was going on in the world, in our parish community.

It was a very meaningful Good Friday after all when as the sun set, God reassured me anew and I think everybody else in our parish that we were not alone. We have him as company, consoling us in this time of the pandemic with the beautiful sights of everyone out in the streets praying.

Yes, they are images of COVID-19 but also images of hope.

Most of all, images of Christ among us, suffering and dying first among us in our community during the pandemic.

Join us again on Monday with more images of COVID-19 as images of hope and images of Christ risen among us!

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

*Photos by Ms. Ria de Vera and Ms. Anne Ramos.