Ultimate joy of Easter: the Divine Mercy of God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Divine Mercy Sunday in the Octave of Easter, 16 April 2023
Acts 2:42-47 ><}}}*> 1 Peter 1:3-9 ><}}}*> John 20:19-31
Photo by author, 08 February 2023.

The ultimate joy of Easter is God’s Divine Mercy, of how his Son Jesus Christ became human like us in everything except sin, searching and finding us to bring us back to the Father by dying on the Cross. Now he is risen, Jesus overflows us with his Divine Mercy right here, right now.

Unlike other religions, Christianity is so unique because it is about God looking for us humans by becoming like us so that we may become like him in Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have come to know and experience God as a person, relating with us in all tenderness and love because he himself had gone through all our pains and hurts, betrayals and disappointments, even death! Read the Bible and you shall see from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we find series of stories of God searching for man, beginning with Adam and Eve who hid after eating the forbidden fruit reaching its highest point in the coming of Jesus Christ who on this second Sunday in Easter came looking again for us represented by the disciples who have gone hiding in a locked room for fears of their leaders who have threatened to arrest them following reports of the empty tomb.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:19-20, 24-28
“The Incredulity of St. Thomas”, painting by Caravaggio (1601-02) from commons.wikimedia.org.

“The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” But we wonder, what kind of rejoicing was it? It must have been more than the rejoicing of passing the Bar or any board exam. There was something else in their rejoicing if we try to imagine being there on that Sunday evening of the third day.

What do I mean? Have you ever felt being the one actually lost when some friends or loved ones as well valuable things have gone “missing”?

That feeling of being the one actually lost because the “missing” persons and things have never left us entirely but just there waiting to be found and rediscovered like when things get hidden underneath the car seat or misplaced somewhere else and forgotten. Once “found” again, there is that deep sense of joy coupled with a sense of wonder and astonishment because the truth is, it was not us who have found the lost person or thing but they were the ones who actually found us too! Here is a case more profound than the “eureka” experience for we were the ones who were lost and finally found again.

And that’s the rejoicing of the disciples in seeing Jesus again that evening of Easter Sunday! They were the ones who were actually lost and found by Jesus!

Just like us today in many instances in life when we have been running away from God, locking ourselves inside our very selves because of fears, insecurities and false securities, pride and sinfulness, as well as doubts and incredulity, unbelief and disbelief in God and in one another. Like Thomas, many times we have been so unreasonable in our demands for proofs of God and everything, insisting that “to see is to believe” without realizing that it is when we believe that we actually see.

Recall during the ministry of Jesus in Galilee how he kept telling his disciples to search for the “lost sheep” of Israel first and later everyone who have sinned and been away from God. That was Divine Mercy in action. Consider these other concrete expressions of Divine Mercy by Jesus:

At the Last Supper, John told us that Jesus “loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end” (Jn.13:1); this he proved by washing the feet of the Twelve! He further proved his love the following Good Friday by dying on the Cross and immediately at Easter, to prove his love again, he looked for Mary Magdalene to break the news of his resurrection to his disciples.

Jesus is the one who finds us unaware of his presence like on this second Sunday after Easter when he appeared to Thomas who was so shocked and surprised that all he could tell Jesus was “my Lord and my God”! I doubt if ever had the chance to examine the Lord’s wounds at all!

Next Sunday we shall hear in the gospel how it is always Jesus who searches and finds us when we least expect him like in the opposite directions in life when he walked with the two disciples to Emmaus Easter evening, only to be recognized by them at his breaking of bread.

Last Friday we have heard in the gospel how Jesus again for the third time appeared after finding them in a fruitless night of fishing in Lake Tiberias by telling them to cast their net to the right side of the boat; their nets almost teared with the bountiful catch of fish!

“The Road to Emmaus” painting by American Daniel Bonnell from fineartamerica.com.

In life, it is always Jesus who searches and finds us. We are the ones always getting lost. Many times in life we cry, asking where is God but the fact is he never leaves us, he is always with us, coming to us everyday, especially on Sundays in the Holy Mass where Jesus leads our celebrations.

On Tuesday, I will celebrate my 25th year of ordination to the priesthood. How I got ordained was a long story of getting lost for nine years when I was sent out of the high school seminary after graduation in 1982. I went to college in UST and finished AB Journalism in 1986, working as a writer then a reporter for GMA Channel 7 News until 1991 when I gave my vocation a second chance by entering the seminary again.

All those years from 1982 to 1991, I felt lost and empty despite a promising career with good pay and all the perks that went with it and a sense of security but, deep inside me was a big hole of being incomplete. That was how I went back to God in prayers, then slowly to the Mass and Confessions, and the more I moved closer to God, the more I felt empty yet eager for him that I finally consulted some priests. After a few years of discernment, I decided to leave everything and started anew in God in the seminary in 1991.

It was not easy going back to the seminary but God had such wonderful ways of finding me, even at the nick of time, to save my vocation. My turning point happened during our Ignatian retreat of 30 days when I finally committed myself to God as I felt his love and presence so irresistible, even himself so true. In 1998 with six other classmates, we were ordained priests at the Malolos Cathedral. Again, it was not an easy 25 years with so many times I often felt lost and empty mostly by my own making when I sin. But like before, Jesus in his Divine Mercy has always been the One searching and finding me even in the opposite directions when I hid amid rejections, failures, fears, sadness and weeping.

Like the early Christians in our first reading, I have found God most present in those 25 years as a priest and as an individual in the communal celebrations of the Holy Eucharist, aka, the breaking of bread as I realized too that priestly celibacy is lived in a community not only of priests but with you the laity.

With the responsorial psalm this Sunday as our prayer, “let us give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting” because as Peter tells us in the second reading, God our Father “in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Pt. 1:3). Let us rejoice in him who finds us always when we are lost. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead. Say a prayer for me this Tuesday. Thank you.

Prayer I have composed after our 30-day retreat in 1995 that until now, I still pray because it is so personally true. That is Divine Mercy for me. And hope with you too!

“Ashes to Ashes” by Dennis Lambert (1972)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II
Photo by author, Mt. Nebo, Jordan overlooking Israel, 2019.

Blessed Sunday, everyone! It was a very tiring but fulfilling week that after our Saturday evening Mass, I just thought of listening to Mr. Dennis Lambert’s music “Ashes to Ashes” released in 1972.

I have always loved the voice and music of Mr. Lambert, especially his love song “Of All the Things”; but, as I listened to “Ashes to Ashes” last night, I realized the song is perfect match with our gospel this Sunday where Jesus reminded his disciples and us to “do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Lk.10:20).

Discipleship – and life in general is about relationships. It is never about the things we can do or have achieved because everything and everyone is passing. Nothing is permanent in this world except love who is God himself (https://lordmychef.com/2022/07/02/maintain-safe-braking-distance/).

When we speak of heaven, we speak of intimacy with God; its opposite, hell, is separation from God. That is why Jesus tells us to rejoice our names are written in heaven, that we are one with the Father in him now. It does not really matter to him whatever we can do or whatever we have achieved but what matters most is what we have become: have we been more loving and faithful? Kind and understanding?

That is what Mr. Lambert is telling us in his “Ashes to Ashes” which is of biblical origin: “We’re only living to leave the way we came”.

They’re tearing down the street
Where I grew up
Like pouring brandy
In a Dixie cup
They’re paving concrete
On a part of me
No crime for killing off
A memory
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Can you find the Milky Way
Long Tall Sally and Tin Pan Alley
Have seen their dying day
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
It’ll never be the same
But we’re all forgiven
We’re only living
To leave the way we came

But of course, it is not the end of everything.

Our Christian faith tells us we have direction in this life wherein death is not the end but the beginning of eternal life which is still, about perfect relationships with God and one another.

Have a blessed Sunday everyone – eat, pray and unwind with your loved ones.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

Easter Intensity

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Week of Easter-C or Divine Mercy Sunday, 24 April 2022
Acts 5:12-16 ><]]]]’> Revelation 9:1-11, 12-13, 17-19 ><]]]]’> John 20:19-31
Photo by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

Admittedly, Lent is easier to experience and express than Easter due to its many practicalities. Lent is easier to understand and embrace with the many penitential practices we can undertake like fasting and abstinence, penance, and alms-giving that all came from and directed to our daily living. Remember our expression last season that “life is a daily Lent.”

Easter is different. It is not easily understood especially in our country when it is the hottest season when everything is dried and seems to be dying unlike in Europe and North America where it is springtime with a dazzling display of wonderful colors evoking life everywhere.

Our gospel this Sunday shows us how Easter had confronted the Lord’s disciples with an entirely new reality that was far beyond the limits of their experience, something which continues to our days, in our very lives. Christ’s Resurrection has opened new possibilities in our existence that affects everyone and leads us to a new kind of future so difficult in explaining and expressing but something very true inside us perfectly captured in our Filipino expression of “ah basta!”

See how simple are the accounts of the Lord’s appearances to his disciples without much details and descriptions:

Photo by author, Holy Sepulchre Church, Jerusalem, 2017.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:19-23

Last Sunday we have mentioned the need for us to be open and empty at the same time to truly experience the joy and grandeur of Easter, exactly what our gospel tells us today. Nothing much is said about the reactions by the disciples of Jesus except that they “rejoiced” upon seeing him breaking through locked doors and windows.

But, if we try to dwell into the scene, we can feel a certain amount of energy bursting forth, an inexpressible intensity found in Jesus and in his disciples as well on that evening of the first day of the week.

John did not tell us how long Jesus stayed with the disciples nor how they rejoiced upon seeing him but we can imagine and feel the intensity both in Jesus and among the disciples on that evening and eventually the following Sunday when Jesus appeared anew in the same manner with Thomas already present.

See in both instances how John simply stated Jesus broke through locked doors and windows that caught the disciples in deep silence and adoration of the Risen Lord, of how their fears were allayed by the the gift of peace, of how sins were forgiven and doubts erased by Christ’s presence that eventually led to their seeing and believing in him.

And what happened? Jesus rose from the dead! He did not merely resuscitate from death but broke out into entirely new form of life, a life no longer subject to death and physical realities paving the way for us to enter into new dimensions in life too.

Like Thomas, Jesus touches us in the most personal and unique manner that deep inside us we also cry with intensity “my Lord and my God” to him especially during consecration at the Mass. In the second reading, we have heard how John who was then a prisoner at Patmos Island off the coast of Greece was also touched by Jesus with his right hand and told not to be afraid (Rev. 1:17) in proclaiming his gospel of salvation.

Though we can enumerate so many reasons and persons who have led us into believing in Jesus, we also admit at the same time that there is no specifically single reason nor person for our faith in God except our very selves, of our personal conviction that transcends all proofs and logic as well. Again, that expression we have of “ah basta!”

Photo by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

The grace of this second Sunday of Easter which is also the eighth day of the octave known recently as “Divine Mercy Sunday” is how God through Jesus Christ comes to us as someone so small and invisible. And so intense in his love for us, breaking all barriers just to be with us especially when we too feel so locked inside with fears like the disciples.

As we have reflected last week by becoming empty and open, we often find our mighty God in little things we usually dismiss or disregard like the mustard seed.

On that evening of Easter, Jesus came in all silence and simplicity, leaving us with not much material proofs except the testimony and works of his witnesses, the disciples.

Such is the mystery of the Resurrection by Jesus that is beyond descriptions and reason because it is of another dimension and world; but, we know it is true because we ourselves have experienced the Risen Lord in so many ways sometimes so plain and simple, even sometimes too funny to mention.

One undeniable fact of the veracity of the Resurrection of Jesus is the shift by the early Christians from the Sabbath day of worship into Sunday, the first day of the week. Remember the first Christians were all Jewish like Jesus; for them to abandon the Sabbath day worship and replaced it with Sunday means something so intense must have happened on that day itself and with them as well.

Because of Christ’s Resurrection, life is forever changed for the best amid all the many problems and chaos we have been through in the past 2000 years, giving us with so much hopes for a better tomorrow despite the many darkness coming our way. The key is to remain intense in our faith in Jesus Christ.

Dearest Jesus,
grant me the intensity to proclaim
you and your gospel of salvation 
in both words and deeds;
use my hands 
to do many signs and wonders
among your people like your Apostles
but never to replace you;
let my mission be an intense
proclamation always that you alone
is my Lord and my God.

Video by author at Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

“Night Fever” by the Bee Gees (1977)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 February 2022
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, 2020.

Welcome back to our weekly music blog featuring songs with themes similar to the message of the Sunday gospel. For this fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we have chosen the 1977 smash hit Night Fever by the Bee Gees that is part of the soundtrack of the movie Saturday Night Fever.

Actually, we have the movie more in our mind than the music which tells the story of a young man Tony Manero played by John Travolta who was searching for meaning and direction in his life, pouring it out on the dance floor of a New York disco. The movie has become a classic as it mirrors so many realities in life during the late 70’s like sex and promiscuity as well as issues on abortion and marriage. Very interesting in the movie too is the brother of Tony who had decided to leave the priesthood, casting some moral aspersions about our practice of faith and religion.

And that is why we have chosen Night Fever as our music this Sunday: the movie and the song both capture the essence of our gospel today which is Jesus Christ coming to us in our daily lives, trying to catch us to give meaning and direction to our lives in him by following him, by leaving everything behind which Tony Manero did at the end of the movie when he apologized to his former girlfriend to start anew at the other side of New York by finding a new job and new direction in life (https://lordmychef.com/2022/02/05/catching-jesus-catching-for-jesus/).

Like Tony and the first four disciples of Jesus – the brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John who were sons of Zebedee, the business associate of Simon – we are all searching for meaning and direction in life.

According to biblical scholars, the Simon and company were all financially stable as they owned boats at that time, employing some men in their fishing ventures. Money was not a problem with them, something we also discover in life that more important than material things is fulfillment. Everything is passing that for a while may give us pleasures but never inner peace and contentment in life.

It is the message too of the song Night Fever with its very inviting beat, luring you to the life and action of the night that has become a fever that eventually leaves one empty and lost.

The movie is worth watching again 45 years after its release to rediscover the deeper meanings of its themes and most especially, its music. Night Fever is one of the five tracks by the Bee Gees included in the movie soundtrack that sold over 30 million copies, winning the 1978 Grammy Album of the Year. The soundtrack was the most successful album of all time until Michael Jackson’s Thriller dethroned it in the 1980’s.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From Youtube.com.

Listening leads to presence

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday III-C in Ordinary Time, 23 January 2022
Nehemiah 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:1-4, 4:14-21
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2019.

I am still in quarantine after testing positive for COVID last Monday. One good thing I have realized these past days is how precious every moment of life as I counted each day, checking on my vital signs three times daily until I will have completed soon the required seven days.

Sometimes, we only realize the existential meaning and gravity of every “today” when we go through a difficult phase in life like getting COVID or like the Israelites finally getting home from exile, suddenly hearing the word of God proclaimed after many years of silence:

Then Ezra the priest-scribe said to all the people “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep,” for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further, “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”

Nehemiah 8:9-10

There are also times in our lives when suddenly we become so open to God’s words, so focused on Jesus to experience his presence like that sabbath day in a synagogue in Nazareth:

Photo by author, January 2019.

Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the yes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:20-21

Thanks to COVID that now I have felt how difficult it is to be separated from everyone, considering the mild symptoms I had as a fully vaxxed with booster too. It must have been so traumatizing for those who caught the virus during the early surges of 2020 and 2021 without the benefits of the vaccines and other modern medicines. Many of them who survived COVID or have lost loved ones until now feel the pains and hurts of those experiences. Indeed, it is after a difficult situation when we truly realize the value of every present moment we have with our loved ones, when everyone becomes so real and precious, when every present is truly a gift.

Today our readings invite us to slow down, to saunter – so to speak – as we journey in Jesus with Luke as our guide who at his prologue to his gospel tells us how he had “investigated everything accurately anew” regarding the “certainty of teachings of Jesus handed down” to us since the beginning (cf. Lk.1:3-4). Like with our loved ones we miss so much these days of quarantine and surge, Jesus reminds us to always listen to make everyone and him present in us.

Our conscious coming into the Father’s house

Last Sunday at the Feast of the Sto. Niño we reflected how we exercise our child-like traits before God whenever we go into “the Father’s house” like the 12-year old Jesus who was found at the Temple. Our going into the Father’s house to pray and receive the Sacraments expresses our rootedness and oneness with God through Jesus Christ.

This Sunday in our gospel, we find Jesus going again into his Father’s house to “proclaim and claim” the word of God as his very presence among us.

Imagine his movements in “slo-mo” when “He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me…” (Lk.4:16-18).

It must have been a moving moment for everyone. So mesmerizing for here was a man so present, so strongly felt with something in him freely walking up to proclaim the word of God. And what an experience for everyone that after “Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing” (Lk.4:21).

That “today” would be repeated by Jesus with the same intensity on Good Friday shortly before he died when he promised to Dimas “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk.23:43).

But, do we make that conscious approach in coming into the Father’s house to celebrate the Sacraments particularly the Sunday Eucharist where the first part itself is devoted to the liturgy of the Word?

Photo by author, April 2020.

In non-verbal communications, we have that communication of spaces called “proxemics”, of how places are designed and positioned to convey something special and profound. Houses of worship of every faith are built on this important aspect of proxemics as every space conveys something about God and his people.

One example of proxemics is the patio of the church with its tall cross at the middle to remind the faithful they are about to enter the Father’s house, of their need to dispose themselves both inside and outside by being silent and being dressed properly.

Sadly, many churches in the country has no patio at all or its patio had become a parking area and worst, a basketball court. What is most tragic is how all these dispositions of coming into the Sunday Mass are disregarded by many people, led by church volunteers who talk endlessly with one another while some priests dress and look sloppily. This is one of the positive aspects of the Tridentine or Latin Mass where the atmosphere of solemnity fills the church and the people as well – and that is why many of the faithful are asking for it! A good example of what St. Paul tells us about the unity in diversity within the Church in the Holy Spirit.

How can we experience the “today” of Jesus being present in us and among us when we do not have such kind of attitude and disposition to listen to him which begins outside the church? If we cannot do it in the proxemics or spatial level, how can we even do it right inside our hearts, whether we are laypeople or the clergy?

Listening to Christ today

One of my favorite writings by the great St. John Paul II is Ecclesia de Eucharistia published in 2003. He tells us something so beautiful about the “universal and cosmic character” of the Eucharist which for me captures the essence of the “today” mentioned by Jesus in the gospel:

Yes, cosmic! Because even when it is celebrated on the humble altar of a country church, the Eucharist is always in some way celebrated on the altar of the world. It unites heaven and earth. It embraces and permeates all creation” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8).

Ecclesia de Eucharistia, #8

This is very true but we rarely experience it happening because we have refused to immerse ourselves in the very words of God. So few among our people read and pray the scriptures while many of us priests rarely speak the Lord’s words as we prefer to tell what we have seen or heard in media or from some famous theologians or thinkers.

Whatever our vocation and place in the Church and the assembly, each of us must immerse one’s self in the word of God first because it is his very presence too. In the story of creation, we learned how everything came into being simply with the words spoken by God.

Photo by author, ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum in Galilee frequented by Jesus, May 2017.

This Sunday we have heard how Jesus “read” on a sabbath at a synagogue in Nazareth, of how in his proclamation of that part of the Book of Isaiah the very words were fulfilled in their hearing.

It happens daily in the celebration of the Mass everywhere in the world whenever we – lay and clergy alike – imitate Jesus, asking us first of all to come with strong desire to be one with the Father, whether in his house of worship or in our room when we pray the scriptures.

Let us enter God with Jesus and in Jesus in the Sacred Books to find him there so we can listen to him how and what he reads, not what we want to hear and say.

We can only touch the hearts of the people and make them hear God speaking again in his words offered us daily in the Mass if we first learn and listen to what Jesus reads and tells us. It is only then when we hear the Word who became flesh that we are able to respond, “Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.” Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

“Question Me An Answer” by Burt Bacharach/Bobby Van (1973)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 October 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

I used to tell my students before that a person is known more with the questions he/she asks than with the answers he/she gives. Too often, our answers are wrong or not certain but if we ask the right questions, even if we do not have the answers immediately, we shall get the right answer at the right time as we mature in life.

What matters most is we ask the right question always.

And that is why we have chosen “Question Me An Answer” from the 1973 movie of the 1933 novel The Lost Lost Horizon for our Sunday music this week. Written by Burt Bacharach and sang by the late Bobby Van in the movie, Question Me An Answer may sound very American and colonial but still, the message is never lost, especially if you listen well to Van’s introduction to his students at Shangri-La.

In this Sunday’s gospel, we find Jesus being asked by a man and then by Peter with questions we ourselves also ask sometimes because deep inside us, we are worried that no one can seem to provide us with the right answer.

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 

Mark 10:17

According to Mark, the man’s “face fell and went away for he had many possessions” after Jesus had answered fully his question which in turn bothered Peter who began to express to Jesus his worry over his answer to the man who had left.

Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.”

Mark 10:28

One of the beauties of seeking and following Jesus are the endless questions that come along our journey with him. That is why we need to pray always and ask for the gift of wisdom so we may be guided in this life that becomes more wonderful with the questions we ask, not with the answers we give, or even get (https://lordmychef.com/2021/10/09/our-secret-worries-in-life/).

And the good news is, next to Jesus to accompany us in this journey in life is we also have great music keeping us company.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com

“Out of Touch” by Hall & Oates (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 05 September 2021
Photo by author, 2020.

The “ber” months are finally with us and despite the daily five-digit number of COVID-19 infections, so many of us seem to be so “out-of-touch” with so many who do not seem to care at all for their loved ones nor for the country like our corrupt officials. Or to God at all.

That is why we have picked Daryl Hall and John Oates’ 1984 hit Out of Touch from their album Big Bam Boom. It was the heydays of Hall and Oates who were then called the “dynamic duo” of the music world with so many hits before and after this song.

We were in college when Out of Touch came with a lot of extended and remixed versions due to its great sound that everybody loved this song.

But, behind that danceable groove and beat, Out of Touch lyrics are so in-touch with realities in life that unlike their other compositions, Hall and Oates sounded a bit philosophical here that we find it perfectly attuned with our Sunday gospel where Jesus touched the ears and tongue of a deaf to heal him of his sickness (https://lordmychef.com/2021/09/04/opening-our-ears-and-heart/).

Shake it up is all that we know
Using the bodies up as we go
I’m waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Take a look around

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around

You’re out of touch
I’m out of time (time)
But I’m out of my head when you’re not around

Oh oh oh oh oh oh

Reaching out for something to hold
Looking for a love where the climate is cold
Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much, yeah
We’re soul alone
And soul really matters to me
Too much

Aside from their usual poetry, Hall and Oates say something so deep using many metaphors in narrating how a wonderful romantic relationship had suddenly turned bad because the lovers had been out of touch with each other like with these lines:

I’m waking up to fantasy
The shades all around aren’t the colors we used to see
Broken ice still melts in the sun
And times that are broken can often be one again
We’re soul alone

Notice how in both stanzas they both mentioned the importance of the soul, of the heart and inner self. Or of spirituality, if you may:

Manic moves and drowsy dreams
Or living in the middle between the two extremes
Smoking guns hot to the touch
Would cool down if we didn’t use them so much, yeah
We’re soul alone

We said in our homily today that opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves. To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Beginning this Sunday, let us get in touch with our true selves, with others and with God to pull through this pandemic before it gets us and tell us how out of touch we have been.

*We have no intentions of infringing on the copyrights of this music except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.

“Pag Tumatagal Lalong Tumitibay” by Wadab (1979)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 08 August 2021
Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao City, 2018.

We are on the first week of our fourth lockdown in Metro Manila since this pandemic began last year. All we need at this time are good vibes to uplift the sagging spirits of our suffering people, those who have lost loved ones as well as have lost their jobs or livelihood as a result of COVID-19 and its quarantine.

Since we are also celebrating the whole of August as “Buwan ng Wika” (Month of Filipino National Language), we have chosen an Original Pilipino Music (OPM) from 1979 by a group of five gentlemen from down south calling themselves “Wadab”, the inverted name of Davao City.

Long before today’s generation had this lodi (for idol) expressions, our generation have long been speaking backwards like jeproks to refer to spoiled brats from Quezon City’s middle class living in different subdivisions called “Project” like Project 7 (spent my early childhood there), Project 2, Project 6. Invert the word “project”, make it hip by adding an “s”, you get jeproks. It was the coolest thing at that time!

Going back to Wadab’s 1979 hit called “Pag Tumatagal Lalong Tumitibay”, the song speaks about the love of a man to his beloved, telling her how his love has grown stronger and deeper for her through time, assuring her of his undying love and fidelity.

Wadab’s song is very interesting for many reasons. Our readers in the US and other English speaking countries can easily relate because like some of the OPM songs of the 70’s, the lyrics is a mixture of Tagalog or Filipino language mixed with English expressions called “Taglish” (from Tagalog + English).

Melody and music are very soothing as they were patterned after the American Philly soul sounds of the Stylistics among others.

We thought of this lovely song for this Sunday because in essence, it is what Jesus is telling us in the gospel today, his being the bread from heaven, the bread of life giving life and nourishment to all believers. It is not enough that we know Jesus in our head; we need to believe in him to experience and share the love he has for us (https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/07/knowing-believing-loving-jesus/).

Imagine Jesus serenading you with this song, assuring you of his loving presence especially in this time of trials. Try to reflect also on our depth of love for Jesus through our family and friends.

Has our love gone stronger through the years despite our failures and sins?

Before listening to our featured music this Sunday, try reflecting on these beautiful words by St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) from one of his homilies about love:

"Love is fully sufficient to itself;
when it enters the heart,
it absorbs all other feelings.
The soul who loves,
loves and knows nothing more."

A blessed week ahead of you. Stay safe always.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this song and video except to share its beauty with others. Thank you.

From Youtube.

“Here, There And Everywhere” by the Beatles (1966)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 25 July 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It is a very “bed weather” these days here in Metro Manila, so perfect for family gatherings, sharing stories and of course, music from the yesteryears like the Beatles‘ 1966 classic romantic love song composed by Paul McCartney, Here, There and Everywhere.

To lead a better life, I need my love to be here
Here, making each day of the year
Changing my life with a wave of her hand
Nobody can deny that there's something there

There, running my hands through her hair
Both of us thinking how good it can be
Someone is speaking
But she doesn't know he's there

As I have mentioned in my homily this Sunday, this classic love song had inspired me to dwell on the demonstrative pronouns used in our gospel today when Jesus conversed with his apostles Philip and Andrew before feeding the more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish (https://lordmychef.com/2021/07/24/when-where-and-there-are-persons-not-locations/).

McCartney admits that it is one of his favorite compositions of all time which happens to be his only song truly appreciated by his fellow composer John Lennon.

The song jibes so well with our gospel this Sunday wherein the here, there and everywhere do not merely refer to locales and locations; there are times when these demonstrative pronouns point to particular persons like in this song, McCartney’s girlfriend at that time, Ms. Jane Ashley.

Jesus remains true as our here, there and everywhere in our lives, in everything that we need. When Jesus asked Philip where can they buy food for the crowd, his where was not actually a place like a store or bakeshop but himself. It was as if telling Philip and everyone of us today, where can you find solace and peace in this time of pandemic? Where else but in Christ alone!

Every where is where God is, where Jesus is!

I want her everywhere
And if she's beside me
I know I need never care
But to love her is to need her everywhere

Knowing that love is to share
Each one believing that love never dies
Watching their eyes
And hoping I'm always there

Going back to McCartney, his relationship with Ashley did not bloom after she caught him cheating on her, in fact while in bed with another woman as the story went. He would get involved with other women that ended in divorce but probably found his here, there and everywhere most with his third wife Linda with whom he remained married until her death in 1998 due to cancer.

In today’s gospel, we find the downside of demonstrative pronouns replacing persons, when we see and value more our very selves and things than others like Andrew who never bothered to ask the name of the boy who gave his five loaves and bread and two fish that Jesus took to do his miracle.

This time of calamity, may we find in Jesus our every where as our source of strength to guide others there to safety. Have a blessed week ahead!

*We have no desire of infringing the copyrights of this song and video except to share its beautiful message and hope brighten the day of everyone.

“Lost Stars” by Keira Knightley (2013)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 18 July 2021
Photo by Atty. Polaris Grace Rivas Beron, Mt. Sinai in Egyot, May 2019.

This is the second time we are featuring this lovely song from the 2013 movie Begin Again starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine who also sang the same song in the said movie. But, like most people, we have always preferred Knightley’s version.

In Begin Again, Knightley is dumped for another woman her boyfriend Levine had met after signing up with a record studio in LA.

Knightley was naturally left broken-hearted and lost in New York City where she was discovered by a struggling recording executive (Ruffalo) in a local bar singing one of her songs.

It is a beautiful love story with excellent selection of songs but Lost Stars is the movie theme composed by Gregg Alexander with Danielle Brisebois that earned an Academy Award nomination for best original song that year.

It captures so well the pains and fears of being lost with no one to turn to which is part of the theme of our Sunday Mass readings when Jesus was moved with pity upon seeing the crowd who have followed them for they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (https://lordmychef.com/2021/07/17/being-lost-getting-lost-in-christ/).

But, being lost is not totally a loss at all like what Knightley – and Ruffalo – have both realized in the movie for their losses led them to gaining back everything they have initially lost like family and career, most of all, one’s self.

Cupid's demanding back his arrow
So let's get drunk on our tears
And, God, tell us the reason
Youth is wasted on the young
It's hunting season and the lambs are on the run

Searching for meaning
But are we all lost stars
Trying to light up the dark?
Who are we?
Just a speck of dust within the galaxy
Woe is me

Jesus came to the world to search for those lost so they may find life again. And the beautiful part of it is that even if we are lost, we are like lost stars the still shine brightly leading others unto life and meaning.

This Sunday, get lost in Jesus Christ to find your self and others. Have a blessed week ahead!

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and video but simply to share its beautiful message. Thank you.