“Levelling up” in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B, 16 May 2021
Acts 1:1-11  ><}}}'>  Ephesians 4:1-13  ><}}}'>  Mark 16:15-20  
Photo by author, Egypt 2019.
So then the Lord Jesus,
after he spoke to them,
was taken up into heaven and 
took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth
and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the word through
accompanying signs.
(Mark 16:19-20)

Thus we heard the closing of St. Mark’s gospel of Jesus Christ. We deliberately chose the word “closing” than “ending” because the Lord’s Ascension is more than an episode in his life but speaks to us of his mystery as the Christ continuing in our time.

The Lord’s Ascension is neither a location indicating heaven somewhere in outer space where Jesus “took his seat at the right hand of God” that we profess every Sunday in the Apostles’ Creed nor a direction of going up, leaving us all behind below here on earth.

If the Ascension were a location or a direction or both, it would mean separation. Then, how could St. Mark claim in his gospel account “the Lord worked with them” if Jesus had really gone to somewhere else?

There is something deeper with the Lord’s Ascension being a part of the mystery of Jesus as the Christ. It is our relationship with God expressed in our relationships with one another in Jesus, through Jesus, and with Jesus who is the head of the Church with us as his body.

In celebrating the Lord’s Ascension, Jesus is inviting us to “level up” our relationships with God and one another in him, with him, and through him while it continues to happen daily among us characterized by our loving service and kindness to everyone which St. Paul reminds us in the second reading.

Brothers and sisters, I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace; one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and one Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:1-7
Photo from Dr. Yanga’s Colleges, Inc. community pantry in Bocaue, Bulacan called “Paraya”, April 2021.

Christ’s mystery in Ascension revealed among us

See the eloquence and mastery of words by St. Paul in writing his Letter to the Ephesians while imprisoned in Rome with a lot of time to pray and contemplate the mystery of Christ and his gift of salvation to us.

Here we find St. Paul so fatherly in reminding us all of the wealth and richness of our Christian vocation as the Lord’s disciples by living in “humility and gentleness, with patience through love” to preserve our “unity of the spirit through the bond of peace”. This is the application (praxis) of the Lord’s teachings at his last supper we have heard in the last two weeks of his being the true vine and we his branches who must remain in him in love.

As Jesus “entered” into a new level of intimacy in the Father in his Ascension, he invites us to “level up” and deepen our relationships with God through one another to become his presence in the world as a community or a church: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism“.

The mystery of the Ascension, of Jesus joining the Father to seat at his right, is expressed and revealed in our community living as his disciples united in his very virtues mentioned by St. Paul. This was made possible by Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection as St. Paul spoke about ascension so different from our typical concepts of location and direction but more of the mystery of Jesus Christ as “The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph.4:10).


The Ascension presents us 
a clear image of unity in Christ 
that after seven weeks of celebrating Easter, 
we  are confronted today with the question: 
"Is Jesus working with us or, 
are we the only ones working without him at all?"

The very person of Jesus Christ is the measure, the standard we follow, not just norms and code of conducts because he is the only one highly exalted (Phil.2:9-11) for having gone through his Passion, Death, and Resurrection expressed as his one whole mystery in the Ascension until his sending of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost we celebrate next week.

The Ascension presents us a clear image of unity in Christ that after seven weeks of celebrating Easter, we are confronted today with the question: “Is Jesus working with us or, are we the only ones working without him at all?”

To work with Jesus is to work with others, to work as one community. When there is a community, there is always a mission and vice-versa. This is the meaning of the words spoken by the angels to the disciples after the Lord’s ascension.

“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Acts 1:11

We cannot remain idle while waiting for the return of Jesus.

As a community of believers and followers of Christ, we actively await his “Second Coming” by striving to live in holiness so that we may eventually make this world a little better and more humane like what happened with the recent “community pantry movement” started by Ms. Ana Patricia Non in Maginhawa Street, Quezon City now all over the country helping the poor and hungry.

It is a direct response to Vatican II’s universal call to holiness: “all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love, and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society” (Lumen Gentium, #40).

Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

55th World Communications Sunday

And speaking of Vatican II, today we are also celebrating the 55th World Communications Sunday with the theme, “Come and see (Jn.1:46). Communicating by Encountering People Where and as They Are.”

The World Communications Sunday is the only feast instituted by Vatican II through the Decree on the Means of Social Communication (Inter Mirifica) issued in December 4, 1963 to remind the faithful of our responsibility to contribute in the social communication ministry of the Church.

In this year’s message, Pope Francis tells us that the Lord’s invitation to his disciples to “come and see” is also the method for all authentic human communication where we personally experience every person to know his true situation in life.

It is in our personal encounter with others that we are able to share with them the redeeming presence and truth of Jesus Christ through our witnessing in faith, hope and love. True communication is the giving of one’s self in love for others, when we try to be humble and gentle and patient as St. Paul reminds us today.

Communicating Jesus Christ cannot happen entirely in mediated forms and methods, through gadgets nor techniques but only through persons through whom Jesus works and confirms his words through accompanying signs of love and mercy, kindness and understanding.

However, as communicators of the Lord, we have to keep in mind that Jesus is the focus, not us. It is the work of the Lord, not ours.

May the Ascension remind us anew to simply do the work of Jesus by focusing on him and his words, not on ourselves. May we priests and other church communicators forget all those aspirations to “trend” or be “viral” with most “likes” and “followers” to become “influencers” or at least popular to whatever degree to be adored and idolized by fans (and paid by sponsors).

It is Jesus Christ who must rise, not us. So, let us be rooted in the Lord as we keep reaching for the stars while keeping our feet on the ground in our community. Amen. A blessed week ahead with everyone!

From Forbes.com via Facebook, 2019.

“Breakout” by Swing Out Sister (1986)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 09 May 2021
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

A blessed happy Mothers’ Day to all the sweet and hardworking moms! Thank you for bringing us out into this world and most of all, thank you for making this planet a better place to live in filled with love and joy. Like Jesus, you make our joy complete with your kindness and affection, fidelity and dedication.

That is why we have chosen this greatest hit by the Swing Out Sister in 1986, Breakout. Composed by lead singer Corinne Drewery, its video features her former profession as fashion designer who also modeled her creations.

Though she looks formal, Corinne exudes with great spunky spirit in her singing filled with courage and joy that one feels the intense love and passion she has in her art and maybe even life – exactly what the gospel tells us today of the need to remain rooted in the love of Christ so we may bear fruit with much love for him and with others.

Love and joy are closely linked with each other: when there is love, there is joy. Without love, there can be no joy; without joy, clearly there is no love at all (https://lordmychef.com/2021/05/08/let-our-joy-be-complete-in-christ/).

Breakout may not be speaking about love and joy but as you listen to its music and lyrics, it is very affirming of one’s worth as being loved so much by God even by others.

When explanations make no sense
When every answer's wrong
You're fighting with lost confidence
All expectations come
The time has come to make or break
Move on don't hesitate
Breakout
Don't stop to ask
Now you've found a break to make at last
You've got to find a way
Say what you want to say
Breakout

This Sunday, we are so blessed with so much love from God and others. “Breakout” from your negative thoughts and other imprisonments that prevent you from experiencing complete joy in Jesus!

A joyful Sunday to everyone especially to our dear Mothers!

Let our joy be complete in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sixth Sunday in Easter, Cycle B,  09 May 2021
Acts 10:25-26, 34-35, 44-48 ><}}}'>  1 John 4:7-10  ><}}}'>  John 15:9-17
Photo by author, December 2020.

Today we come full circle in our readings and teachings of the Lord since Easter, appropriately prepared last Sunday with his discourse being the true vine and we his branches who must remain in him to be fruitful in love.

Yes, love is the only fruit expected of us by God in Christ Jesus. When we die, it is the only thing the Lord would ask us, “gaano ka nagmahal” (how much have you loved)? It is the origin and the end of everything in this life, the only one that would remain in eternity (1Cor. 13:13).

God created us because of love, and because of that love as the second reading tells us, saved us by sending us Jesus Christ whose very life, words and actions are all rooted in his love for the Father and for us. That is why in our gospel today, Jesus spoke of love at every turn during the last supper to emphasize centrality of love that is rooted in God.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"As the Father loves me, 
so I also love you.
Remain in my love.
If you keep my commandments, 
you will remain in my love,
just as I have kept my Father's commandments
and remain in his love.
I have told you this so that my joy may be in you
and your joy may be complete."
(John 15:9-11)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, February 2021.

Love and Joy

God alone really knows what love is because “God is love” (1Jn.4:16). Notice how Jesus spoke of love in the gospel today by linking it closely with joy as he tells us that when there is love, there is also joy. Without love, there can be no joy and without joy, clearly there is no love at all!

In its truest sense, joy – like love – is more than an emotion. It is a conviction deep within us borne out of faith that no matter what happens to us, there is God who truly loves us, remaining faithful to us until end when everything and everyone is gone.

Joy is deeper than happiness that is always coming from the outside when lips smile or laugh at something or someone funny and happy. Joy is always coming from within when the heart smiles even when you are in the midst of pain and sufferings. Recall those moments when during a major setback or a struggle in life you still managed to feel joy within through a deep sigh after seeing a beautiful sunrise of sunset or a lovely flower. There is always that feeling of comfort and relief so assured that you have somebody by your side — Jesus who assures us of his love this Sunday, asking us to remain in him “so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete” (Jn.15:11).

Photo by author, ICSB-Malolos, 26 April 2021.

When joy is not complete and not in Christ


Our joy is not complete, not in Christ 
when we refuse to love because we feel unloved.

So many times in life, we cannot experience true joy when we refuse to love another person whom we feel not loving us at all. We “hate” them because we feel they do not love us, they do not care for us, that they take us for granted.

I have seen this happening to me so many times when I suspect other people of being angry with me, of being biased against me and worst, of being “insecured” with me!

But too often, I do not have bases in believing so.

Most of all, I have realized in life that we cannot force people to love us or even like us inasmuch as I do not want being coerced to do the same too! What is most true in my experience is that when some people do not seem to love me, the challenge for me is to love them more. Not hate them or not love them.

I know this is easier said than done but try to understand that it is only in loving those who do not love us or do not care for us or even hate us when we truly love because when we do so, that is when we let God intervene to make his love work in us, through us, and with us.

When we love those who do not love us, we surrender ourselves to God which is an act of self-giving like Jesus Christ on the cross, letting him fill in whatever is lacking in us to truly love. It is the truest love we can have when our love is not reciprocated by another, thus enabling us to rediscover God, our very selves and others. In the process, we begin to experience joy because we have started truly loving without expecting anything in return by loving those who do not love us nor care for us at all.

Photo by author, 2019.

Our joy is not complete, not in Christ
when we love only those like us.

Only God can love us perfectly. Human love is always imperfect as we always have that tendency to go only with those like us – in our looks and bearing, beliefs and tastes in almost everything. In that case, we limit ourselves with the people we interact with that in the process, we never grow in love and never really become joyful because we do not love at all!

Love is always outward in movement, always to another person as we mature. As a matter of fact, we love because we want to be become like the one we love who is always someone we look up to and admire. That is why love becomes more wonderful and fulfilling when we love somebody not like us or totally different.

There lies the problem with our kind of love, especially those portrayed in the movies, television, and modern music where we love only those like us that is very selfish because we only love ourselves.

We will never experience joy completely if in our loving we seek only those who are like us or worst, twist others to become like us, fitting them into our own image so that whom we love is not them but us found in them!

Crazy but it happens so many times when we manipulate others to become like us than let them be free to become their true selves.

“Love is our true destiny.We do not find meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. We do not discover the secret of our lives merely by study and calculation in our own isolated meditations.The meaning of our life is a secret that has to be revealed to us in love, by the one we love.”

Thomas Merton, “Love and Living”

The surest sign that we have truly loved is when we have found another person to love more than our very selves.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Rhode Island, April 2021.

Our joy is not complete, not in Christ
when we refuse to forgive those who have hurt us,
especially those we have loved so much.

It is easy to claim that we love if we do not really love at all. No matter how hard we profess that we love, its lack cannot be denied in the absence of joy in our selves, in our lives because we have been hurt by those we love.

This is more difficult than the first when we refuse to love because we feel we are not loved that may not be true at all; this is evidently clear, somebody had hurt us, had betrayed us, had been unfaithful to us.

And the saddest part of it despite all the denials is that we still love deep within us those who have hurt us! Is it not? Kaya masakit kasi nga mahal pa rin natin.

I am not talking here of a disordered or foolish love; this is something like the love of a husband or a wife to one’s partner who had fallen into infidelity for some reason. Or a prodigal son or daughter who had gone wayward in life.

This kind of love is the most difficult, but once overcome is the most sublime, the loftiest of all because the very reason why we are aching and hurting inside is because we still love. This is the kind of joy that would surely burst in fulness and completeness if we learn to forgive and let go.

Again, easier said than done but such is the power of love: the more we love, love is perfected in us that we slowly get a glimpse of God in others, and the more we become like Jesus his Son (1Jn.4:12).

So many times in life, we need to imitate St. Peter in the first reading by simply allowing God’s irresistible initiatives overtake us that while he was explaining things to the household of Cornelius, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening that he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 10:44, 48).

When we love, love freely!

Let that love flow, do not hold it, just let it go like what mothers do most of the time: even if they are hurting inside, even if they feel not loved and cared for, even if sometimes they seem to be so hard on us insisting on their own ways, they just love, love, and love.

And that is the secret of true love rooted in Christ: when we love, we can do nothing but good. Then our joy is complete.

A joy-filled week to everyone! And happy Mothers’ Day too.

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Carmel at Israel, 2014.

“Location Unknown” by HONNE (2018)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 02 May 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Rhode Island, April 2020.

It’s a warm and laid back Sunday, perfect for some chilling especially with family and friends, or simply favorite people and loved ones who have kept our sanity through all these trying 14 months of the pandemic and quarantine. That is why we have chosen a new genre called “electronic music” – so bagets if you wish – as we try on new artists and “make sakay” (ride on) with the times.

It was the pre-COVID period of November 2019 when I read the return engagement in the country by the British duo of Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher who call themselves HONNE.

They sounded interesting that after trying their music on YouTube, I got hooked on them especially after finding out their interests with anything that is Asian. In fact, their name HONNE refers to a person’s true feelings and desires in Japan that literally means “true sound” or hon’ne, like this 本音.

And that is what we like with their 2018 hit “Location Unknown” – it sounds raw yet sophisticated in its appeal to the senses that evokes one’s hidden feelings of emptiness and loss, wishing and desiring to connect again, to be one anew to the one you love who truly loves you. It is what Jesus is telling us in today’s gospel: as the true vine with us his branches, we have to remain in him because we shall never be fruitful in life without him (https://lordmychef.com/2021/05/01/remaining-in-christ-the-true-vine/).

Sometimes in life, even if we are successful and we have everything like fame and wealth, we feel something greatly missing in our lives, like a big hole no one can fill except God, the only who truly loves us, working for our own good without us knowing.

HONNE captures so well in this song that feeling of loss – Location Unknown – after being separated, of not remaining with a beloved. Don’t wait for it to happen. Remain in Christ, our true vine. And with your loved ones!

I wish I knew where I was
‘Cause I don’t have a clue
I just need to work out some way of getting me to you
‘Cause I will never find love like ours out here
In a million years
A million years

My location unknown
Tryna find a way back home
To you again
I gotta get back to you
Gotta, gotta get back to you
My location unknown
Tryna find a way back home
To you again
I gotta get back to you
Gotta, gotta get back to you

Listening to HONNE is like having an exquisite piece of sushi – as I have told you, raw yet sophisticated, simply flavorful that delights even the soul. Try their music and you will surely love!

Bon appétit!

Remaining in Christ, the True Vine

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Easter, Cycle B, 02 May 2021
Acts 9:26-31  ><}}}'>  1John 3:18-24  ><}}}'>  John 15:1-8
From Facebook of Fr. Marlito G. Ocon, SJ via GMA News, 30 April 2021.
"Ang lungkot, Father.  
Wala na akong asawa na mauuwian, 
abo na ang asawa ko."

This broke my heart last Friday evening from a post by Jesuit Fr. Marlito G. Ocon of a woman who came by herself to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) to deliver her baby. Her husband had just died of COVID-19 while she and her baby are both COVID positive. Worst, she has not informed her parents-in-law about the death of her husband because they are also in critical condition in the province for COVID-19.

“Ang lungkot, Father. Wala na akong asawa na mauuwian, abo na ang asawa ko. Hindi man lang kami nagkausap. Hindi ko man lang maibalita na may second baby na kami. Hindi man lang sila nagkita ng anak namin.” (“It is so sad Father. I do not have a husband anymore to come home to, he’s all ash now. We did not even have the chance to speak to each other. I cannot even tell him the news we have our second baby. He did not even get the chance to meet our new baby.”)

Fr. Ocon is one of the chaplains at the PGH, the largest public hospital in Metro Manila. He said, “I have no words because I know any word can’t explain enough why horrible things like this happened. But I realized that it is in our deep, deep silence and it is when we run out of words, and when theology can’t explain enough, that our faith can speak louder.”

Very true.

Lately I have noticed a shift in prayer requests by relatives and friends, from the usual healing prayers for those afflicted with COVID-19 to prayers for their and loved ones’ emotional and psychological well-being.

More and more people have been coming to me for counseling via Zoom and Messenger apps as they hurdle so many crises in marriage, work, livelihood and self since the pandemic started last year. We have resumed yesterday in our parish our weekly confessions and everyone who came cried not only for their sins but most of all for their emotional baggages either triggered or worsened by this pandemic.

And like Fr. Ocon, I could not say anything at all except to pray and tell them to hold on to God, to never let go of him, “kapit lang at huwag bibitiw sa Diyos”, exactly what Jesus is telling us this Sunday:

Jesus said to his disciples:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower.
Remain in me, as I remain in you.
Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own 
unless it remains on the vine, 
so neither can you unless you remain in me.
I am the vine, you are the branches.
Whoever remains in me and I in him
will bear much fruit because without me you can do nothing."
(John 15:1, 4-5)

“Remain in me.”

In St. John’s vocabulary, “remain in me” is one of the key phrases he used 68 times in his writings (gospel, three letters and the Revelation), 11 times in this whole discourse in John 15:1-17, and if you have listened attentively, that phrase was mentioned eight times in eight verses!

In its strongest sense, “to remain in me” speaks of the intimate bond of the Father and the Son, of the Son and the Spirit that only St. John recorded for us during the Lord’s discourse at his last supper found in John 14-15. Most of all, “to remain in me” follows that great revelation by Jesus as the Christ in the fourth gospel like “I AM the bread of life”, “I AM the good shepherd”, “I AM the way, the truth and the life” and now “I AM the true vine”.

To remain in the Lord is to live in him in faith even if nothing seems to happen like during this pandemic when God seems to be silent and even distant from us.

It is first of all a call to prayer life. Not just recitation of prayers we have memorized since childhood but to cultivate a deep and personal relationship with God when we do not have to speak at all but simply be in his loving presence.

There are times we feel nothing is happening with our prayers but unknown to us, that is precisely when something is actually happening because prayer does not change the situation but the person!

As we grow and mature in our prayer life, we become more aware of God and of the other persons that we become less focused with our very selves. And that is when we change, when we realize our mistakes and sins, our weaknesses, teaching us to be humble, patient and persevering. It is worth keeping in mind this four-letter word PUSH – Pray Until Something Happens.


Most of the time, 
we do not see things in our lives the way God sees them.  
He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his ways are not our ways, 
his thoughts are not our thoughts for God is totally different from us!  
We have to trust him and remain in him 
"for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything" (1Jn.3:20).  
And that is for sure - as we have proven so many times in our lives.

Photo by author, 27 April 2021, ICSB-Malolos city.

Remaining and being fruitful

Remaining in Jesus means being faithful especially when things get worse, when even in bad times, we consistently stay in the Lord in silence.

Remember how we have been so sullen in March, wondering if God has forsaken us with the deadly surge of COVID-19 cases amid the glaring incompetence of this government when suddenly our hopes were raised high by this community pantry movement?

Who would have thought of Ms. Patricia Non in the quiet street of Maginhawa in Quezon City would rally the whole nation with her “Community Pantry” now helping so many people going hungry?

Not only that. The most beautiful thing Ms. Patricia Non had done is her bringing out the best in every one of us, rich and poor alike, young and old to share whatever we have for our suffering brothers and sisters!

Most of the time, we do not see things in our lives the way God sees them. He tells us in Isaiah 55:8-9 that his ways are not our ways, his thoughts are not our thoughts for God is totally different from us! We have to trust him and remain in him “for God is greater than our hearts and knows everything” (1Jn.3:20). And that is for sure – as we have proven so many times in our lives.

In the first reading we find the very difficult and almost impossible situation of St. Paul following his conversion: nobody would believe him and everybody suspected him of possible sinister plots against them! But, St. Paul remained consistent in his prayers and studies in Tarsus until Barnabas introduced him to the apostles who gave him the opportunity to preach in Jerusalem. Despite his dark past, St. Paul won so many converts in his preaching in the name of Jesus that eventually, he was sent to missions abroad that led to the growth of the early church.

That is remaining in the Lord – allowing God to work in us and through us like St. Paul so that we become fruitful, not just successful.

Fruitfulness is the result of remaining in the Lord, of letting God do his work in us. Most often, this leads to pains and failures as Jesus tells us of the need to be pruned like the branches of the vine to be more fruitful. But, despite these failures and defeat in our lives, we experience that sense of fulfillment within us because we have grown and matured in the Lord. We have not really failed at all because we have become fruitful.

On the other hand, being successful means relying more on our human efforts like our strengths and intelligence that is usually measured in tangible things like money and popularity. But, we have also experienced or heard many successful people still feeling empty and lost, that despite their fame and wealth, they have no peace and joy within, feeling nobody truly loves them for who they really are.

Many times in life we have experienced that even if we feel safe and sufficient, that is when we feel so empty, something is missing. As we usually say, parang may kulang pa.

This Sunday, Jesus our Good Shepherd reminds everyone of us to remain united in him who is our true vine. It is only in him can we find life and meaning amid the many sufferings and trials going our way especially at this time of the pandemic.

Only in remaining in Jesus is the surest path to fulfillment despite our pains and sufferings, as well as losses in life. Just stay and remain in him as he is always doing something beautiful for us. Amen.

A blessed and fruitful week to everyone!

Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

“You Belong To Me” by Michael McDonald (2009 Remaster)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 25 April 2021

Today is the Good Shepherd Sunday and we have chosen Michael Mcdonald’s 1977 composition with Ms. Carly Simon called “You Belong to Me” which echoes the words of Jesus, “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (Jn.10:14-15).

Knowing implies relationship because it connotes belonging (https://lordmychef.com/2021/04/24/beloved-children-of-god-led-by-the-good-shepherd/).

Knowing and belonging are interrelated: one knows because he/she owns like when we claim things as ours. When we possess, we know because we have.

But, Jesus is speaking here not of owning and taking control an object or any material thing. Jesus and the Father knows each other as they belong to each other as one in a perfect relationship but never because they “own” nor “possess” one another.

To illustrate, children belong to parents while a husband belongs to a wife and vice versa, we belong to our friends and our friends belong to us. There is always a degree of knowledge in every belonging not because we are possessed or owned in the same way we own our house, our car, or any gadget for that matter. Owning, possessing or having persons and even pets are of higher degree of knowing and belonging, of something deeper about invisible links that tie us with someone we believe “belongs” to us.

This is the whole point of McDonald in this song which is about infidelity: the girl is having an affair. But no matter what she does, she belongs to him.

Why'd you tell me this
While you look for my reaction
What do you need to know
Don't you know I'll always be the one

You don't have to prove to me you're beautiful to strangers
I've got lovin' eyes of my own
You belong to me
In this life
Anyone could tell
Any fool can see who you need
I know you all too well
You don't have to prove to me you're beautiful to strangers
I've got lovin' eyes and I can tell

You belong to me
Tell him you were foolin'
You belong to me
You belong to me
Tell him he's a stranger
You belong to me

This is something many people – couples, children, and friends – always forget: we always belong to someone who truly loves us that even if we sin and become unfaithful to them, that belonging remains.

McDonald sounds like Jesus the Good Shepherd who never forces us into being one with him nor in following him. He simply calls us, inviting us to follow him, to be one with him.

Knowing and belonging like the Good Shepherd is less of controls and more of trust with one another because you see them as brothers and sisters in Christ. It is no wonder that like Jesus “the stone rejected by the builders who has become the cornerstone” (Acts 4:11), it always happens that the people who reject us for loving them truly in the end comes back to us to take care of them, to love them, to forgive them. Don’t wait for it to happen. Go back to whom you belong, be sorry and live honorably.

Have a blessed Sunday!

Beloved children of God led by the Good Shepherd

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday In Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and 
World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 25 April 2021
Acts 4:8-12  ><)))">  1 John 3:1-2  ><)))">  John 10:11-18

After listening to the Easter stories by John and Luke these past three weeks, we are now initiated into the implications of Christ’s Resurrection as the Father’s beloved children belonging to him led by Jesus our Good Shepherd.

Jesus said:
"I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father; 
and I will lay down my life for the sheep."
(John 10:14-15)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, March 2021.

Image of shepherd pasturing the weak

Since Easter we have been reflecting on Jesus as our Lord and Savior who comes as our invisible guest in almost every aspect of our lives especially in the Holy Eucharist where he appears, speaks and shares meal with us despite the lockdowns due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In our country where the sheep is only beginning to be known as an excellent food, better than pork and beef especially Abes’s lamb adobo, the image of the shepherd is hardly known, even irrelevant for many especially for those in urban areas.

But, it is important that we try to bridge this gap even a little to appreciate and understand Jesus Christ’s words this Sunday being the Good Shepherd.

One very important aspect we have to keep in mind with the imagery of a shepherd in the Near East region where Israel is located is its symbolism of the relationship between the king and his subjects. Pasturing sheep was clearly an image of the task of every king in the region in ancient times not only in Israel but even in the pagan kingdoms of Babylonia, Assyria, and Sumer. This is the reason we find books in the Old Testament teeming with many references to God as the true king and shepherd of Israel, taking care of the people, leading them in green pastures and clear waters.

When the kings including the priests of Israel abused their roles, forgetting their mission to pasture especially the weak and the poor as they turned to pagan gods like Baal, God became so angry with them that he vowed to come himself to shepherd his flock fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ.

This decadence of the image of the shepherd continued in the time of Christ when shepherds were looked down and typecast as thieves and trouble-makers who belonged to the lowest level of the poor who could not even afford to attend temple worship due to their poverty.

Here we find the stage perfectly set for Jesus to restore and fulfill this degeneration of the beautiful and noble image of the shepherd while teaching after his healing of the man born blind that created a very big stir among peoples and temple authorities at that time in Jerusalem.


Knowing and belonging are interrelated:  
one knows because he/she owns like when we claim things as ours.  
When we possess, we know because we have.  
But, Jesus is speaking here not of owning and taking control an object or any material thing.  
Jesus and the Father know each other as they belong to each other as one 
in a perfect relationship but never because they "own" nor "possess" one another.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

Knowing God, belonging to God

When Jesus declared “I am the good shepherd”, notice that he goes beyond simile: he did not say “I am like a good shepherd” but declares emphatically, repeating thrice the words “I am the good shepherd” – twice in verse 11, and again in verse 14.

His knowledge of the sheep is not from casual nor in-depth observations and study of the sheep but from a totally different and transcendent order when he declared, “I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father”.

Here, Jesus is clearly re-establishing our lost relationship with God as our Father and we his children that is emphasized in our second reading, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1Jn.3:1).

Unlike the monarchs of the world, Christ our King is the Good Shepherd because his relationship with us is based on love and concern especially for the weak and the lowly as the Father had intended since the beginning! Jesus is the good shepherd because his is a relationship of unity in God as our Father.

Knowing implies relationship because it connotes belonging.

Knowing and belonging are interrelated: one knows because he/she owns like when we claim things as ours. When we possess, we know because we have. But, Jesus is speaking here not of owning and taking control an object or any material thing. Jesus and the Father knows each other as they belong to each other as one in a perfect relationship but never because they “own” nor “possess” one another.

To illustrate, we belong to our parents, we belong to a church or a community, we belong to an organization. There is always a degree of knowledge in every belonging not because we are possessed or owned in the same way we own our house, our car, or any gadget for that matter. Owning, possessing or having persons and even pets are of higher degree of knowing and belonging, of something deeper about invisible links that tie us with someone we believe “belongs” to us.

Is it not funny that sometimes we claim how our possessions also seem to be like persons that try to get to know whoever is using it as in “nangingilala” wherein if somebody borrows our car or any thing, sometimes they do not function well? And we say, maybe because the car or the thing did not know who’s driving or using it!

Pope Francis last year mentioned a very beautiful trait of St. Joseph that speaks so well about this very positive kind of “possession”, of knowing and belonging like his relationship with Jesus Christ and Mary. The Pope described it as St. Joseph’s being “a father in the shadows”.

In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way… Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Pope Francis, “Patris Corde” (08 December 2020), #7

What a beautiful way of describing this sense of knowing and belonging – like St. Joseph and very much like Jesus our Good Shepherd!

See that Jesus never forces us into being one with him nor in following him. He simply calls us, inviting us to follow him, to be one with him. That is why we heard him also telling us today that he has “other sheep that do not belong to this fold” that he must lead and care too.

Jesus is the shadow of the Father who leads us back to him as his beloved children. He does not coerce us nor demands us even though he “owns” us as his sheep. In his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus had shown us how he had become the foundation, the cornerstone we have always rejected in many instances in our lives now pasturing us back to greener pastures.

To know and to belong in the light of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is for us to regard one another as a family, as a brother and a sister we love and trust, allowing them to be free and faithful to God and one another instead of manipulating people like what some parents do to their children or dictators in the government and military.


Knowing and belonging like the Good Shepherd 
is less of controls and more of trust with one another 
because you see them as brothers and sisters in Christ 
perfectly expressed in the Community Pantry dictum, 
"magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan" 
(give whatever you can, take only what you need).

Knowing and belonging like the Good Shepherd is less of controls and more of trust with one another because you see them as brothers and sisters in Christ perfectly expressed in the Community Pantry dictum, “magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan” (give whatever you can, take only what you need).

What Ms. Ana Patricia Non and her followers did was become like Jesus the Good Shepherd when she said this community pantry is “not about charity but more of mutuality like helping the needy” which is about seeing each other as a brother and a sister belonging to one family under God our Father. Charity happens where there is first a relationship of persons respecting one another.

No wonder, she had perfectly called her effort as “community pantry” because every home has a pantry where everyone goes when hungry. And what is more, her community pantry has become a steady source of kindness and tenderness we have missed so much during this pandemic!

How beautiful that a shepherdess from Maginhawa Street led us to realize that we are one big family – brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ and beloved children of the loving and merciful Father in heaven.

May this be the start of a beautiful journey for our country when we see more our belonging to one nation, one country we collectively “own” and therefore, we must ensure its bright future by seeing each other in the light of Christ our Good Shepherd – not us possessions to be manipulated or even sold for personal interests alone.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

“Promise Ain’t Enough” by Hall and Oates (1997)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 18 April 2021
Photo by author, 2020.
Don't want to open your heart
You're afraid from the start
That a new love's gonna let you down
There is something you should know
Before you give up and go
I don't believe in the run around
I just want to define myself
And show you how I feel

Yes! We’re feeling so romantic this Sunday because of this great love we’re feeling deep inside.

Like you, we have fallen in love, we have been hurt and disappointed, even felt betrayed and forgotten by a beloved that too often, we have closed our doors to new love, new relationships out of fear of being hurt again.

But, as Daryl Hall and John Oates sang in 1997 from their Marigold Sky album we thought would be their last (thankfully not!)….

If a promise ain't enough
Then a touch says everything
Got to hold you in my arms
Till you feel what I mean
Know that my heart just tells me what to say
But words can only prove so much
If a promise ain't enough
Hold onto my love

No… we’re not talking of a special relationship with anyone.

We’re feeling so good today because it is our 23rd year of Ordination to the priesthood – a love relationship like those of between a husband and wife that demands fidelity and trust, respect and kindness, mercy and forgiveness.

And a lot of prayers!

Human love is imperfect; only God can love us perfectly.

Too often in life, we we get hurt in so many ways, some so severe, others may be dismissed but still, every pain always leaves a mark in us that sometimes prevents us from loving again.

The disciples of Jesus felt the same: they thought he was gone after seeing his Crucifixion on Good Friday that when he suddenly appeared to them, they were so amazed and could not believe it so true that the Lord had risen (https://lordmychef.com/2021/04/17/jesus-in-our-midst/).

The same feeling we have when we love again.

When we forgive, when we move on, when we let go and let God.

Whenever we go back to our “Jerusalem” – to our crucifixion and sufferings, we are purified by Jesus, opening our minds and our hearts of how despite all the pains, the gains still outweigh the past that we can look forward to better days ahead as we share in his new life now.

So many times in our lives, in our relationships with one another, Jesus comes as the invisible guest, always appearing, speaking, and sharing meal with us. And after sometime, as we look back to our past, we feel deep inside how our hearts burned during those times we were not aware of Christ’s presence.

It is true, we humans make so many promises to be broken but only Jesus is keeping them.

Welcome him especially amid the many pains and darkness, let his love be perfected in your perseverance and you shall see…

It took a lifetime to find what I want
I won't let it get away
If a promise ain't enough
Then a touch says everything
Got to hold you in my arms
Till you feel what I mean
Know that my heart just tells me what to say
But words can only prove so much
If a promise ain't enough
Hold onto my love
If a promise ain't enough
Hold on
If a promise ain't enough
Hold onto my love

This is one of Hall and Oates’ most loved love songs that tells us the basic truth about love: it is best expressed in actions than in words.

Hold onto God’s love always. Amen.

Jesus in our midst

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter, 18 April 2021
Acts 3:13-15, 17-19  ><)))*>  1 John 2:1-5  ><)))*>  Luke 24:35-48 

After listening to the accounts of the beloved disciple John, we now reflect on Luke’s story of the Resurrection which is a continuation of the gospel proclaimed in the afternoon of Easter, the Road to Emmaus.

Recall how the two disciples did not recognize the Risen Lord when he joined them on their way back to Emmaus saddened with his death, doubtful of his resurrection. Upon reaching home, they invited the Lord for a meal when after breaking the bread, they recognized it was Jesus who had then vanished from their sights!

Both hurried back to Jerusalem to tell the rest of the disciples of their encounter with the Risen Lord.

While they were still speaking about this, he stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Then he said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do questions arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” And as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of baked fish; he took it and ate it in front of them.

Luke 24:36-43
Painting by Caravaggio of the Emmaus Meal from commons.wikimedia.org.

Many times in life
 we feel it more "fearful" in the positive sense 
to believe in God than in ghosts 
because God is very real 
when ghosts are not true at all.

Jesus appearing, speaking, and sharing meal

Both evangelists John and Luke consistently tell us in their Easter stories the three manifestations of the Risen Lord to the disciples: appearing, speaking, and sharing meal. All three acts belong together as one to remind the disciples of what transpired during their Last Supper, fulfilled on Good Friday.

But, there is something deeper in the dynamics of these three acts when seen from the perspective of Luke. And we have to look back to the beginning of this story on the road to Emmaus where we find Luke using a pattern of presenting an outward sign of Jesus appearing, speaking and sharing meal with the disciples who were then led to an inner recognition of the Risen Lord.

Notice that outwardly while walking, the disciples did not recognize Jesus as the man walking with them, speaking to them about the scriptures. Inwardly, something was happening with them: Then they said to each other, “Were not our hears burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32)

This pattern of outward signs and inner recognition becomes strongest when Jesus shared meals with the disciples: And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight (Luke 24:30-31).

Exactly the same thing happened in this manifestation we now have in Jerusalem: the outward signs of the Risen Lord appearing to the disciples, showing them his hands and his feet. The disciples were amazed, could not speak at all upon seeing Jesus Christ alive, speaking to them, reminding them of his teachings before and most especially, shared meal with them by eating a baked fish to prove he is not a ghost.

Then, he spoke again to remind them of his earlier teachings of the scriptures being fulfilled in him through his Passion, Death and Resurrection, leading to the inner recognition by the disciples: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:45).

Painting by Frenchman James Tissot “Appearance of Christ at Cenacle Room” from commons.wikimedia.org.

Many times in life we feel it more fearful in the positive sense to believe in God than in ghosts because God is very real when ghosts are not true at all. “Mas nakakatakot maniwala sa Diyos kesa multo kasi ang Diyos ay totoong-totoo habang ang mga multo ay hindi.”

Amid the many outward signs we see unfolding right before our eyes, we could not help but believe as we are overwhelmed with God’s presence, with his love and mercy for us in the most personal way. The German Lutheran theologian Rudolf Otto called it as “mysterium tremendum” and “mysterium fascinans” when we feel so small like a tiny speck of dust in this vast universe yet so special, so loved by the almighty God.

There is that realization of our sinfulness, of our shortcomings before the Lord and yet still loved and forgiven like what Peter taught the people in his teaching after Pentecost at Jerusalem. Four times in four verses Peter spoke to the people with the second person pronoun YOU to stress their complicity in the crucifixion of Jesus, “you handed over and denied (v.13); you denied the Holy (v.14); you put to death (v.15)”; and finally, the saving declaration:

“Now I know, brothers, that you acted out of ignorance, just as your leaders did; but God has thus brought to fulfillment what he head announced beforehand through the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer.”

Acts 3:17-18

Whenever we commit sins. when we refuse to love others, we become that “YOU” of Peter who hand over and deny Jesus, putting him to death whenever we reduce persons into things or take God’s blessings like food for granted.

From the Facebook page of artist Mr. Dengcoy Miel, 01 April 2021.

The “essential” table fellowship

Aside from proving to his disciples that he is risen, Jesus Christ’s appearance, speaking, and sharing of meals with them continues to our time in the Holy Eucharist where he brings us to a new covenant in the table fellowship with him and the Father in heaven.

In the Holy Eucharist, Jesus gives us a share in his very life, allowing us to participate in his Resurrection through the purifying power of his Passion and Death.

From the days of the Apostles up to our own time, the celebration of the Mass had gone through many changes and reforms but its very essence has always remained as the Real Presence of Jesus Christ among us in outward signs perceptible to our senses like the proclamation of the Word, the sharing in the Lord’s Body and Blood, and the communion of members of the community gathered in every celebration.

Like the disciples of the Lord during that Easter evening, we continue to experience an inner awakening within us of his presence, of his very self.

That is why Vatican II as well as St. John Paul II had always insisted that the Eucharist is the summit of our Christian life, that everything in our lives and in our parish especially must flow from the Eucharist. This is the reason that even with the COVID-19 lockdowns, Masses continue to be celebrated by priests even in private without the congregation because it is our source of nourishment especially in these times of crisis.


These community pantries now sprouting 
are in itself extensions of table fellowship with Jesus as the unseen guest - 
appearing, speaking, sharing meals with us - 
literally giving us food for the stomach, delighting our souls.

  It is another Easter and Pentecost happening in our midst, 
of Jesus coming to us, 
truly alive in the Holy Spirit among people 
gathered in loving service for one another, 
a perfection of the love of God in us!

Photo from Elijah San Fernando, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 April 2021.

See the recent “miracles” happening lately about this “community pantry” that started in Maguinhawa Street in Quezon City now fast spreading to other areas in Metro Manila with some farmers from the provinces giving their share of farm produce.

What a beautiful proof of the fulfillment of John’s words in our second reading today: “But whoever keeps his word, the love of God is perfected in him” (1Jn.2:1-5)!

These community pantries now sprouting are in itself extensions of table fellowship with Jesus the unseen guest – appearing, speaking, sharing meals with us – literally giving us food for the stomach, delighting our souls.

It is another Easter and Pentecost happening in our midst, of Jesus coming to us, truly alive in the Holy Spirit among people gathered in loving service for one another, a perfection of the love of God in us!

Photo by Toots Vergara, Philippine Daily Inquirer, 16 April 2021.

This Sunday, let us experience Jesus our guest right in our family, in our homes as we gather in our table without our gadgets and prejudices against each other, having only our very presence and fellowship in love and mercy, kindness and care as we feed our bodies as well as our souls. Amen.

*Please say a prayer for me and my six other classmates today as we celebrate our 23rd year of ordination to the priesthood (18 April 1998, Malolos Cathedral by Abp. Rolando J. Tria-Tirona).  Salamuch and God bless you all!  fr nick

“Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake (2014)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 11 April 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Rhode Island, 10 April 2021.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, 
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, 
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, 
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way
 – in short, the period was so far like the present period, 
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted 
on its being received, for good or for evil, 
in the superlative degree of comparison only.
(Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities")

I know this blog is supposed to be music but Charles Dickens’ famous lines opening his novel “A Tale of Two Cities” are in fact very lyrical and musical. And with our Dickensian situation especially in the way this government has mishandled the pandemic since the very start, we have chosen for our music this Sunday of Divine Mercy something so lively and upbeat, so intense like our Risen Lord who broke free from death and sin, able to enter any locked door and person.

It is a song “resurrected” in 2014 with Justin Timberlake after Michael Jackson suddenly died in 2009, earning so much popularity and acclaim as if MJ were back in life again with this posthumously released hit, Love Never Felt So Good.

Originally written and recorded in a demo track in 1980 with Paul Anka, Love Never Felt So Good was the first single released from Jackson’s second posthumous album, Xscape.

The song is the second collaboration between Jackson and Anka to be released since Jackson’s death in 2009 with This Is It being the first. (Interesting trivia: Anka rearranged the song in 1984 for Jackson’s longtime friend Johnny Matthis who recorded it in his 1984 album A Special Part of Me.)

We chose Love Never Felt So Good primarily for its feel good, positive vibes so infectious which we all need this Easter 2021 with all the deaths and sickness happening due to the pandemic.

There is also the semblance with Easter in a sense with MJ being “resurrected” with the reworked version of the song with Timberlake, another intense artist who can surely drive away the blues today.

Most of all, we find the lyrics very apt with our gospel story of St. Thomas who doubted Christ’s appearance to his fellow apostles (not his Resurrection).

Let us not take doubt as lack of faith; in fact, doubts lead us to deeper and stronger faith like with what happened to Thomas. What matters is we remain in the Lord, keeping ourselves open to his coming like St. Thomas (https://lordmychef.com/2021/04/10/easter-the-intensity-of-jesus/).

In Love Never Felt So Good, Jackson mentions his doubts many times if he is also loved by the woman he desires; but in spite of those doubts, he believed deep in his heart that love never felt so good if they would be together.

The same thing is true with us: amid our doubts are also the strong conviction something good can still happen with the grace of God. What matters is that we learn to balance the many twins in our lives like Thomas: the joys and sorrows we experience, the light and darkness that come our way, the triumph and defeats we face, and lately, the births and healing and deaths we experience in this pandemic.

Trust in Jesus always who promised us his Divine Mercy overflowing despite our sins and sufferings.