Becoming God’s children

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Feast of the Sto. Niño, 17 January 2021
Isaiah 9:1-6  >><)))*>  Ephesians 1:3-6.15-18  >><)))*>  Mark 10:13-16 
Photo by author, 16 January 2021.

Today we spend an extra Sunday for the Christmas Season’s Feast of Sto. Niño granted by Rome to the local Church in recognition of the important role played by that image of the Holy Child gifted by Magellan to Queen Juana of Cebu in 1521.

Its role in the Christianization of the country cannot be denied, considering the historical fact that when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Cebu 44 years later after Magellan to claim the country for Spain, they were surprised to discover how the natives venerated the Sto. Niño inside a special hut for worship along with their other anitos.

Legazpi’s chaplain Fray Luis Andres de Urdaneta attested to how that devotion to the Sto. Niño in Cebu enabled them to Christianize other natives without difficulties as the Holy Child image at that time has become the favorite among the people in asking favors like children and bountiful harvests as well as protection from calamities and wars.

The late National Artist Nick Joaquin was absolutely right to claim in his many writings and talks that it was really the Sto. Niño who truly conquered the Philippines that continues to be the most popular Christ-devotion in the country along with the Nuestro Padre Jesus de Nazareno of Quiapo.

More powerful than the swords and cannons or any force in the world indeed is the Child Jesus who has continued to be a paradox in world history: the Son of God born in a lowly stable in a small town called Bethlehem because there was no room for them in the inn during the time of the powerful Caesar claiming to be the king of the whole world by ordering a census of all his subjects in the vast Roman Empire now totally forgotten, his kingdom long gone.

What an irony the God who came so weak like all of us, without any title to His name nor an army at His command still influencing the world in His weakness and silence, in His childlikeness. A reality in life until now we have refused to accept even in the Church.

People were bringing children to Jesus that he might touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he became indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then Jesus embraced them and blessed them, placing his hands on them.

Mark 10:13-16
A child praying in our Parish, 07 November 2019; photo by Mr. Red Santiago.

Christ’s path of weakness vs. the world’s path of power

It is so timely that during this Ordinary Time we have this Feast of the Sto. Niño to remind us of the central teaching of Jesus Christ to be childlike that gets lost in the novelty and sentimentality of our Christmas celebrations.

See how this call for us to be childlike becomes more difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.

The world of men, of macho men we love to relish with delight in the secular and religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of external showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone and everything like the disciples of Jesus. The tragedy of that scene continuing to happen in our time is how some few people who live in darkness pretend to be seeing the light that in the process are actually misleading people towards darkness and destruction.

Every time we refuse to allow others to come forward with their new thoughts and new ideas, fresh perspectives in governance and management, in the ministry, in theology, when we close our minds to hear others ideas and opinions in doing things, then we are into serious power plays that can be pernicious at the same time.

When this happens, we are all the more challenged to be child-like before God in taking all the risks in exposing what is true, what is real like those kids shouting “the emperor has no clothes”!

To be a child means to owe one’s existence to another which we never outgrow even in our adult life. It is an attitude of being open, that Jesus can be talking to us through people not necessarily like us, even different from us. It is an attitude of trusting others, unlike those hungry for power who only believe in themselves, so afraid they might be proven wrong because their minds are either narrow or closed.

Are we not surprised at all that these control freaks around us who try so hard to project images of power and strength are often the perverts and deviants hiding their childishness and immaturities and other skeletons in the closet?

Photo by author, “Sleeping Sto. Niño”, January 2020.

Becoming and living as God’s children

Jesus shows us today in this feast of the Sto. Niño that it is in the path of being weak like children when we are truly free like Him – free to be a child of God indeed! This He accomplished by dying on the Cross not only to forgive us for our sins but made us a “new man/woman” in God as His children.

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

Ephesians 1:3-6

How sad that in our efforts to be in the man’s world of power and dominance, we try so hard becoming somebody else whom we are not only to end up alone, lost and unfulfilled.

Our being children of God is something innate in us, already within us that was accomplished by Christ for us at the Cross.

The key is to always go back to Jesus at the Cross.

We have said earlier that to be a child is to owe one’s existence to another that is, ultimately speaking, to God alone.

Hence, one sure sign of being like a child is having the sense of gratitude, of thanksgiving.

Incidentally, the Greek word for thanksgiving is eucharistia or eucharist! In the gospel accounts, we find so many instances of Jesus thanking the Father for everything that beautifully reminds us of His childlikeness.

The moment we feel strong enough without need for others, then we stop being grateful, then we lose that childlikeness in us as we start tinkering with power and influence, assuming to ourselves that everybody owes us, the world needs us.

That is when we stop growing and sooner or later, we collapse and eventually fall so hard on our faces.

How amazing that the Sto. Niño image given by Magellan to Queen Juana holds an orb or a globe. It is very interesting where did the maker of that image got that idea that the world is round when in fact it was the theory that Magellan had in mind in setting out to his ambitious expedition by sailing westward and returning from the east?

Records show that the first images of the Child Jesus or Sto. Niño as we know came from Flanders, a region in the Netherlands. The Flemish people have been making those images as early as the late 1400’s. That is why there is also that popular image of the the Child Jesus in Prague in the Czech Republic.

The mystery remains where did they get that idea of the Child Jesus holding an orb?

Could it be that the Flemish people who were devoutly Catholics at that time must have found the “light” from Jesus Christ in their devotions and prayers as prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading?

Nobody knows for sure but the next time you look at a Sto. Niño, be reminded always that it is the Child Jesus who holds the world in His hands. If you want to have the world in your hand too, be child-like! Be always grateful for who you are and what you have. Jesus promised it anyway.

Blessed week ahead of you!

Looking back, looking forward in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Baptism of the Lord, 10 January 2021
Isaiah 55:1-11   +   1 John 5:1-9   +   Mark 1:7-11

On this second week of January we celebrate the final epiphany of Jesus Christ as an adult in His baptism by John the Baptist at Jordan River which is also called a “theophany” when God the Father made known to everyone Jesus is His beloved Son with whom He is well-pleased.

The other two epiphanies were last Sunday when Jesus manifested to the nations of the world symbolized by the Magi while the other was during His Nativity when He appeared to the poor and lowly symbolized by the shepherds for whom He first came for.

His baptism at Jordan closes the Christmas season that coincides with our secular calendar’s entry to the second week of January which is named after the Roman god Janus who has two faces with one looking forward to the future and the other looking backwards to the past.

It is exactly what our liturgical and secular calendars in this month of January are both telling us – that we are at the threshold of new beginnings, new start as we slowly leave the past behind. And what a blessed start we have on this Solemnity of the Lord’s Baptism when Jesus reminds us of His presence this 2021 which experts predict would just be an extension of 2020. We are looking to the future in Jesus and with Jesus while we look back to the past seeing the great things the Lord had done for us!

This is what John the Baptist proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:7-11

Jesus Christ our Good News

For this year 2021 properly referred to in liturgy as “Cycle B”, we shall have Mark as our guide and companion in our Sunday Mass journey in the Lord (Cycle A is with Matthew, Cycle C is Luke; we hear John on special occasions like Christmas and Easter).

As I have told you during Advent, Mark wrote the first gospel account, it is the shortest because he was in a hurry in making known the good news right away. But, as Shakespeare had said, brevity is the soul of wit; Mark’s brief and direct reporting of the events and teachings of Jesus open for us so many reflections that make us experience the Lord.

Right away at the start of his gospel account, Mark tells us the baptism of Jesus as the inaugural event of the Gospel in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies announcing the coming of John the Baptist as Precursor to the coming of the Christ.

See his manner of narrating, stating matter-of-factly without any further ado that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John; he seems to be in a hurry to tell us something great, something important and so beautiful: On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him.

I like that part when he said “the heavens being torn open” or in some translations which I prefer, “the sky rent in two”. What a beautiful imagery, so evocative of God intervening into our lives, descending into our world to bring order, to bring peace!

In the Book of Isaiah which is read during Lent, we find that beautiful expression, “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down” (Is.63:19-64:3).

I love that so much! Imagine God rending, tearing apart the heavens like an action hero coming from behind to save us, to protect us, to get us.

Also in Mark’s gospel, he tells us how Jesus at his last breath “rending” while the curtain at the sanctuary of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (Mk.15:38).

For the heavens to be rent apart shows us God finally intervening into our lives and affairs to set things right, to have some order.

And that is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ that happens daily in our lives. God has rent the heavens and descended upon us in His Son Jesus Christ who clothed Himself in our humanity so we can be like Him, divine and holy.

It is an invitation He extends to us every day, beautifully expressed by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading:

Thus says the Lord: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord… so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; my word shall not return to me void, but shall do my will, achieving the end for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:1-3, 8, 11

What a beautiful assurance to us this day with the threats of new strains of COVID-19 and problems in having the vaccine, here is God assuring us all the good things we need in this life. Of course, it is not merely the material things we need but surely all good things like milk and honey we need not only to survive but to live fully.

This Feast of the Baptism of the Lord assures us all the blessings and fulfillment we need and long for this 2021 if we accept His invitation to be one with Him.

How sad that too often, we reject Christ’s invitation, thinking how difficult it is to keep the commandments of God without realizing that they are indeed “not burdensome” (1 Jn.5:3) because the more we sin, the more life gets harder and heavier for us.

Today God assures us of His love, of how his favor rests upon us in Jesus Christ.

May we heed His calls so we may see Him rending the heavens apart, coming to our rescue, coming to our aid and presence. Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you!

Christmas: A call to openness and sincerity

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 03 January 2021
Isaiah 60:1-6  >><)))*>  Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6  >><)))*>  Matthew 2:1-12

Christmas is the greatest exchange gift of all when God became human like us so that we in turn can become holy like Him. For some, it is something so unthinkable even impossible but history proves Jesus Christ did come while our faith continues to affirm this reality daily when we continue to tell and relive the story of Christmas through every new year.

And this we can only do if we become open and sincere to God who revealed Himself to us in His Son Jesus Christ. No need to hide things from Him. He knows everything but He does not force us to come to Him. He merely invites us. Just like the three wise men from the East or Magi who came to pay homage to Him in Bethlehem.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

Matthew 2:1-2

The meaning of magi and star.

After the Nativity of the Lord and the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God we celebrate this Sunday the third major feast of the Christmas Season called the Epiphany from the Greek term that means manifestation or appearance of Jesus to pagan wise men symbolizing the peoples of the world.

So much attention has always been given on the magi and the star that we sometimes forget that the stories in the Bible are not pure accounts in history that are factual to satisfy our curiosities; it is not that they did not happen at all but the most important thing is the meaning they impart to those reading the Sacred Scriptures.

As we have noted during our Simbang Gabi, Matthew has the most unique in beginning his gospel account with “the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt.1:1) to show right away to his readers that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of God in the Old Testament. Recall how behind every name in the genealogy of Jesus is a story and history full of meaning and significance.

Matthew continues this in his story of the epiphany to show us again that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises since Abraham by using the story of Moses as his framework.

See how the story of Jesus resembled that of Moses, the greatest figure of the Old Testament: the flight to Egypt, the threat of murdering all infants in the time of the Pharaoh and then of King Herod, and the saving act of God in the exodus which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

See my dear Reader that in the story of the epiphany of Jesus is also found glimpses of His crucifixion and death: at His birth, the magi were the first to recognize Jesus as the new King of the Jews while at His death, there hung above Him the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews” with a Roman centurion, another pagan like the magi who would declare to himself, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt.27:54).

Here we find Matthew’s infancy narratives of Jesus are not only appealing to our sentiments and emotion but on a deeper level, these stories reflect how we Christians have always believed based in our experiences and faith that indeed Jesus is the Emmanuel of God, His presence among us who truly walked this planet and continues to guide us in the power of the Holy Spirit after His Ascencion into heaven, making Him truly a star above us guiding us in this life’s journey.

Unfortunately, for some people, it is something unthinkable and even impossible, choosing to live in their own follies and blindness like King Herod and yes, some Christians who claim to believe and know God.

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet… Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

Matthew 2:3-5, 7-8

Jesus calling us to our "epiphany".

I like that part when Matthew tells us how “Herod called the magi secretly” to inquire further to them about their knowledge about Jesus and the star. How ironic and tragic that they in Jerusalem were the ones who did not even notice the unusual star above them and worst of all, with the information and knowledge they have, not to have known the birth of Jesus Christ!

How sad that so many times, we keep on looking so far without even noticing those nearest to us!

Most of all, of our blindness and refusal to accept what is obvious, what is so clear like the love and mercy Jesus pours on upon us despite our sinfulness.

See at how some government officials are making a mockery of our laws and of their very selves, trying to cover up their wrongdoings, trying to defend their mistakes and sins not knowing the more they sink in their follies with all their lies and secrecies.

Keeping secrets can sometimes be needed for a good reason; but most often, to act in secret is often indicative of something sinister like in our story today, of Herod calling the magi secretly to snoop around and eventually launch his evil plot.

What a shame that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never in hiding yet here were people secretly plotting something against them — just like inn our own lives, in ur own time when we try to deceive even those dearest to us, hiding in our so many secrets and lies that eventually come out in the open.

How sad that while Jesus keeps on revealing Himself to us but we still hide many secrets from Him as if he would not know!

This Epiphany Sunday while Jesus appears to us in His words and in the Eucharist, He invites us to open up to Him, to be sincere and have our own epiphany too. May this prayer help you in discarding your many secrets that are after all, very known to Jesus who merely waits for us to come to Him in our openness and sincerity.

Lord Jesus Christ,
in so many instances this past year 2020
You have continued to reveal Your presence among us,
in my own life, in keeping me safe from so many harm,
in healing my sickness, in providing for my needs,
in obviously being my Lord and my God;
You know everything in me, my many secrets
that I continue to hide from You.
Forgive me Jesus in hiding from you 
even if I know you know better than I am.
I have no gold, frankincense nor myrrh
but this Christmas help me offer to you
my many "secrets" I hide  from you and others
so I may fully experience your love and mercy poured out
since that first Christmas when you first came to us.
AMEN.

Advent is being consistent

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, 20 December 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16  >><)))*>  Romans 16:25-27  >><)))*>  Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

We are now on the final week of our four Sundays of preparations for Christmas. We have been saying Christmas 2020 is surely the most different and difficult in our lives due to the pandemic. However, it may also be the most meaningful when we have more of spiritual values, less of material things; more of the other persons, less of ourselves; and, more of Jesus, less of the Christmas trimmings.

Today we heard the beautiful story of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ found only in the gospel of Luke, the source of many inspirations in arts for many centuries even today. The scene reveals to us the artistry and spirituality of Luke believed to be a medical doctor who was a disciple of St. Paul. He is the only evangelist who admitted he had “investigated everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence (the events about Jesus Christ) so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Lk.1:3-4).

And what is that certainty Luke looked into? That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to the patriarchs and prophets, who is the very presence of God among us. That is why Luke wrote a second volume to his gospel, the Acts of the Apostles to show us Jesus still present in the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this beautiful canvass painted to us by Luke on Jesus the Christ in his Gospel and Acts we also find in a supporting role the Blessed Virgin Mary, His own Mother and model disciple.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. then the angel said to her, “do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end”

Luke 1:26-33

The discipleship of Mary

As a former journalist, I have always considered the four evangelists as the premiere reporters of Jesus Christ. Mark is the old school type of straight news reporting, writing the basic who, what, where, when and why, making his gospel the first to be written and shortest as he was in a hurry, a true journalist. Matthew is more of a feature writer or interpretative reporter while John was a news analyst, an op-ed columnist.

Luke is the modern journalist using the “digital platform” who goes on “live as it happens” with all the colors and actions without losing depth and focus like the BBC and Al Jazeera. He brings us where the news is happening as you must have noticed yesterday in the story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah which also served as introduction to his lead story of Christmas, the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Here we see the unique position of Mary as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke tells us how Mary is the only one to have believed in a “situation of contemporaneity” as Fr. Cantalamessa would love to say, meaning, she believed while the event was taking place and prior to any confirmation by the event or history.

See how Matthew presented some facts already known to him in narrating the annunciation to Joseph where the angel clarified Mary’s pregnancy was due to the Holy Spirit. Luke, on the other hand, is like reporting live in real time, so realistic with Mary and the angel conversing to each other!

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, mosaic of the Annunciation at the San Padre Pio Church in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, 2016.

Writing in Greek like the rest of the authors in the New Testament, Luke did not use the usual Hebrew greeting of “Shalom” when Gabriel appeared to Mary, addressing her instead with chaire or “Rejoice favored one” that means especially graced from which came our translation from the Latin “Hail, full of grace!” in 1:28.

The favor or grace of Mary has found with God in 1:30 is explained in 1:31 in the future tense, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son“. What is amazing here is that there is the sense of certitude on the part of the angel that the future will definitely take place because Mary has already been highly favored one by God before this event. How?

Though Mary will finally become a disciple at the end by saying “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” in 1:38, we find in 1:29 how she had always been disposed to the will and grace of God when Luke described how “she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be“.

Mary “pondered – meaning, she prayed, she meditated right away the greetings to her, indicating her openness and disposition to listen and follow the will of God. That shows how even before the annunciation happened, Mary had always been obedient to God that is why she could say yes to Him when asked to be the Mother of the Savior.

Here we find Mary’s consistency as a disciple of the Lord, her Son Jesus still to be born but already existing in eternity!

When we were growing up, our mother would always tell us that once our names are called either by her or by our father, we only say one thing, “Opo… ano po iyon?” (Yes, what is it?). That is old school discipline where we literally obeyed first even without any instruction yet because we have always been assured parents would never tell kids to do something bad or wrong. And we believed that. Unlike today’s generations where the usual reply to parents’ call is “wait” that no wonder, we now ask God wait before he can speak to us. Thank God I did not get married….

Going back to Mary, we now find the contrast with yesterday’s annunciation to Zechariah: Mary pondered and felt everything in her heart and soul while Zechariah reasoned out, used more his head than his heart – something we must ponder this Christmas. Mary right away had her heart, her very self onto the Christmas Nativity while Zechariah was stuck in his negativity.

Mary believed while the event, the annunciation, was taking place, prior to any confir­mation by the event itself or by history. Later we shall see that expression “pondering in her heart” repeated often by Luke and also by John in presenting Mary: after listening to the words of the shepherds who came to see baby Jesus at His birth in Bethlehem, at finding Jesus at the temple aged 12, and during the wedding feast at Cana where He did His first miracle.

Photo by author of the site where the annunciation to Mary took place found below the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (2019).

The faith of Mary

From the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to His crucifixion, Easter and Pentecost, Mary always believed. During the Visitation, Elizabeth praised her, becoming the first to call Mary as “blessed” because “you believed what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45).

Eight days after Easter, Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe! ” (Jn 20:29). Early at the annunciation, Mary was the first to have believed without having seen Jesus Christ!

Mary teaches us the importance of subjective faith or the act of simply believing and trusting God, a person-to-person relationship with Him.

But it is not enough because it could lead to isolationism when we become individualistic and begin to have our own concept of God like what is happening these days especially with many Catholics with their own interpretations of God, heaven, evil and sin among other things.

Like Mary, we need to cultivate also objective faith, believe in the content of faith of the community. Mary believed God relating with the ancient prophets and patriarchs of Israel which the angel mentioned to her during the annunciation. See that after the annunciation, Mary hastily went to visit Elizabeth to share her good news and her faith. In her we learn that faith leads to a mission that is seen in the context of a community, the Church where Mary was portrayed to us praying with the disciples of Jesus during the Pentecost at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

So here we find the consistency of Mary even before the annunciation that continued on in the life of the Church we still experience today in her many apparitions and messages always centered on Jesus not herself.

That is the call of Advent to us all: to be consistently clear with our faith with the one to be born at Christmas, Jesus Christ who is the Son of the Father, our Savior promised in Old Testament, now the very presence of God among us.

People kneeling on the streets during our Christ the King celebrations, 22 November 2020.

It is not enough that we just pray and believe; like Mary, we need to get out of ourselves and give ourselves to God and the Church. This is especially true with us priests who seem to believe more to himself and to media than with God! We must constantly examine ourselves if we truly believe in what we preach, in the kind of lives we lead. Is Jesus still center of our lives or us that we are so concerned always with our “image”, always seeking “likes” and “followers” than anything else?

If there is anyone who should be the first to be consistent in faith in God in any community, that must be the priest or pastor.

A few weeks ago while striving through the many challenges of my personal life and my ministry since this pandemic began, a parishioner told me how they draw strength and inspiration from me. I asked her why and how? What does my personal life has anything to do with them?

She explained that whenever they see me still going through with my ministry, holding on in my prayers and daily Masses, still smiling and can still laugh and crack jokes — they just feel they too can overcome their trials and difficulties.

I have realized in that short conversation more than preaching and explaining faith and its content, people look more at how faithful are we truly are as men of faith. That aside from dispensing the sacraments and doing all the ministries in my parish, there is also the task so unknown to me before of enkindling the faith of my flock, of guiding and leading them to God based on how do I live that faith in God with joy and patience.

People believe in God and the Church when they experience their pastor believing first in God and the Church. Like the COVID-19 virus, faith is contagious that spreads by coming into contact with. We priests must be the first to be “infected” with faith in the parish so that everyone would be “positive” with it, creating a “pandemic” in faith!

That is the consistency of Mary as a disciple — she is a “carrier” of a deep, joyful and active faith in Jesus, “infecting” everyone so positively that despite the difficult and trying situations we are into, we celebrate Christ’s coming amid the pandemic.

A blessed Sunday as we prepare for Christmas!

“I’ll Be Around” cover by Hall and Oates (2004)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 13 December 2020
Photo by author, Tabernacle, Gaudete Sunday, 2020.

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third week of Advent known as “Rejoice Sunday” when our readings and pink motifs invite us all to rejoice because Jesus is coming.

And so, here we rejoice with some hard hitting old-school music with Daryl Hall and John Oates’ cover of the Spinners’ 1972 hit I’ll Be Around.

Yes, we have always preferred the original and the Spinners really did a good one that made I’ll Be Around now a classic but Hall and Oates really “kicked ass” on this one along with other hit classics from their 2004 album Our Kind of Soul.

I was watching Live from Daryl’s House the other day when their featured guest sang this and right away felt its energy but I still preferred this 2004 cover that featured the the dynamic duo’s kind of old-school music especially the signature guitar riff wrapped up in Daryl’s superb voice and performance.

I’ll Be Around was written by Phil Hurtt who clarified he was not “hurting” (pun intended) or into any emotional transition in composing the lyrics of this song that speak of the undying devotion of a brokenhearted man to his ex-girlfriend, that despite their parting of ways, he assured her that

Whenever you call me, I'll be there
Whenever you want me, I'll be there
Whenever you need me, I'll be there
I'll be around

In our gospel reflection, we have said that life is a perpetual Advent of Jesus – he had come, he will come again at the end of time, and he continues to come to us in our lives, among peoples and events.

And in this perpetual coming of Jesus, he needs us as new John the Baptist who shall guide others because “there is one among you whom you do not recognize” who could be Christ after all!

We find this song joyful, upbeat, and very much like the role of John the Baptist, the Lord’s Precursor and Awakener preparing the way of Jesus Christ even in our own time when this Season of Advent has become a parable of our life (https://lordmychef.com/2020/12/12/advent-a-parable-of-our-life/).

So, let us rejoice amid the pandemic, Jesus continues to come to bless us, to save us!

Uploaded to YouTube by LOGONDOR (83,138 views as of 18 June 2015); [Merlin] Absolute Label Services (on behalf of U-Watch Records); CMRRA, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc., Warner Chappell, PEDL, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, LatinAutor – Warner Chappell, Sony ATV Publishing, LatinAutorPerf, and 3 Music Rights Societies

“Wake Up Everybody” by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (1975)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 December 2020
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon (03 December 2020).

Finally got a song so perfect for this Second Sunday of Advent that speaks so well of being awake, awaiting judgement day by leading a life of loving service to others. It peaked on top of the Hot Soul Singles chart of 1976 for two weeks that launched the careers of some of the big names in R&B during that great decade of 1970’s.

My dear readers and followers, welcome Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes doing the original version of Wake Up Everybody.

Wake up everybody no more sleepin' in bed
No more backward thinkin' time for thinkin' ahead
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be
There is so much hatred war an' poverty
Wake up all the teachers time to teach a new way
Maybe then they'll listen to whatcha have to say
'Cause they're the ones who's coming up and the world is in their hands
When you teach the children teach em the very best you can

The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me

Since its release in 1975, Wake Up Everybody has been covered by other artists not only in the US but also in Great Britain and France. During the 2004 US elections, it was covered by various prominent R&B artists with some rappers to urge young people to go out and vote. John Legend also did a cover of the song in 2010 with The Roots featuring Common and Melania Fiona.

Perhaps because of its theme and lyrics, the song has always been considered as political but, hey! even Jesus and John the Baptist were also accused of political leanings in their preachings about truth, dignity of every person, and value of life!

It is said that music is the food of the soul that when a song is so true and really good, it will always present the gospel values of Jesus Christ which is the case in most protest songs of the 60’s and 70’s like Wake Up Everybody.

See how the composers of this classic – John Whitehead, Gene McFadden, and Victor Carstarphen -have consciously or unconsciously incorporated Advent thoughts and theology in Wake Up Everybody that is still so true today:

Wake up all the doctors make the ol' people well
They're the ones who suffer an' who catch all the hell
But they don't have so very long before the Judgment Day
So won'tcha make them happy before they pass away
Wake up all the builders time to build a new land
I know we can do it if we all lend a hand
The only thing we have to do is put it in our mind
Surely things will work out they do it every time

The world won't get no better if we just let it be
The world won't get no better we gotta change it yeah, just you and me

Next to the lyrics, what makes this song so Advent-ish is its slow and cool instrumentations at the beginning of the song that bursts under control with the soothing voice of the late Teddy Pendergrass taking over, sounding so calming yet hits hard through one’s inner core without being preachy either.

That is how Advent happens: Jesus comes to us whenever we proclaim and embrace his gospel of repentance, doing what is right and good to everybody, when we wake up from our life of sins and evil, and indifference with others.

Listen, and wake up to this classic piece and have a blessed Second Sunday of Advent!

Posted on Youtube by yxyoic in 24 September 2011; licensed to YouTube by SME (on behalf of Epic); ARESA, BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, CMRRA, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc., Warner Chappell, PEDL, LatinAutorPerf, LatinAutor – Warner Chappell, UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, LatinAutor – SonyATV, LatinAutor – UMPG, and 7 Music Rights Societies.

“Be Thankful for What You Got” cover by Pepe Marquez (2019)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 15 November 2020
Photo by author, after the floods, typhoon Ulysses, 12 November 2020.

We try to be subdued and sober this Sunday in thanksgiving to the gift of life as we remember and pray too for our brethren in Cagayan and Isabela suffering from the worst floods in decades after typhoon Ulysses pummeled our region this week with heavy winds and rains.

Here is Mexican Pepe Marquez and his band for his cover of William DeVaughn’s 1972 soul song “Be Thankful for What You Got” that was released two years later in 1974, selling almost two million copies as it reached #1 on the US R&B chart and #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart that year.

There are other versions of this cool, cool music notably by Curtis Mayfield who had actually influenced DeVaughn in this song; thanks to Manny Pagsuyuin who shared me this music recently that I now prefer than the other covers for its superb percussions and instrumentations plus Marquez’s trademark videos of classic cars.

The song is so simple with gospel-like lyrics that remarkably hit home specially in a time of calamity like this when we have to be sensitive with others’ sufferings.

Most of all, despite its oft-repeated line “Diamond in the back, sunroof top, diggin’ the scene, with a gangsta lean”, the music is so clean and crisp with its second part reminding us that of all that we have, the most precious are our loved ones.

Part of the Lord’s message today in being vigilant for his return is for us to be thankful for everything we have because he gives us according to our abilities. It is not how much or how little we have in life but how we make use of it that matters.

How sad we only realize this after a calamity or a crisis in life.

Let’s make it a habit to be thankful daily for our gifts, use them wisely in serving others as we thank and praise God for his goodness. A blessed Sunday, everyone. Amen.

Directed by: Pepe Marquez & Carlos Guillen with Gabriella Guillen for LA CIMA MUSIC along with Cj Infinito & Carlos Alvarez Aragon for CJ Infinito Productions. #lacimamusic Featuring: Jeff Lewis on Trumpet – Dora Sanchez on Vocals & Lorenzo Martinez on Percussion. Album available on, Spotify, cdbaby, Amazon Music and all digital download sites. https://www.facebook.com/pepe.marquez.33

Taking risks like Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXXIII-A in Ordinary Time, 15 November 2020
Proverbs 31:10-13, 19-20, 30-31 >><)))*> 1Thessalonians 5:1-6 >><)))*> Matthew 25:14-30   
From inquirer.net

It is my fervent hope and prayer that by this time, everybody is feeling better after those harrowing experience of winds and rains by typhoon Ulysses that have induced flash floods and left a path of destruction and deaths in Central Luzon and Metro Manila this week.

Indeed, it was like tropical storm Ondoy happening again after eleven years when everybody was caught by surprise by the floods and severe aftermath of dirt and trash left behind with no electricity nor water supply available in many parts of the affected areas.

As a result, many of us have again reflected on the one topic we have always avoided in life – death and things of the end like parousia or Second Coming of Christ, end of the world, and judgement day that have preoccupied the early Christians. St. Paul’s reminder to them in today’s second reading is so timely and relevant even for us today to be vigilant for Christ’s coming.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness, for that day to overtake you like a thief. For all of you are children of the light and children of the day. We are not of the night or of darkness. Therefore, let us not sleep as the rest do, but let us stay alert and sober.

1Thessalonians 5:4-6

Vigilance is faith in Christ.


Jesus gives us another parable today to illustrate his Second Coming and judgement; but unlike last week, today is more picturesque, touching our innermost core, challenging us to be “wiser” in daring to gain eternal life by working harder in this life.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “A man going on a journey called in his servants and entrusted his possessions to them. To one he gave five talents; to another, two; to a third, one — to each according to his ability. Then he went away. Immediately the one who received five talents went and traded with them, and made another five. Likewise, the one who received two made another two. But the man who received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and buried his master’s money.”

Matthew 25:14-18
Photo by author, Chapel of the ICMAS Theologate, 05 October 2020.

Vigilance is more than being prepared and ready for any eventuality. It is active waiting by taking risks to ensure a more safe and sound situation when emergencies strike. This is the reason why investors are always surveyed how much risks they are willing to take with their investments: the bigger the risks, the higher the returns are. But, can we take the risks?

The same is true with everything if we wish to have a better future. We have to take risks like working harder, sacrificing more in order to save money and have better homes, to keep our body physically fit and healthy, and burning the night lamp to finish our studies and achieve our goals in life. In this all we find the need to maximize what we have – no one can claim as having nothing at all or “walang-wala” as we would always claim in Tagalog.

Jesus clarifies this today in his parable, telling us that each servant was given with talents “according to his ability”. We are all blessed by God! It is not a question of how much we have received but what have we done to what we are given with.

Of course, not everyone can have all in life but each one has his/her many talents as well as weaknesses. Focus more on what we have than what we do not have. Keep in mind that nobody is perfect, that everybody is going through some struggles in life.

Being vigilant, being “children of light” means striving for the best, choosing what is the best which is part of being holy, an expression of our faith in God. Whenever we dare to take risks like casting our nets into the deep like Simon Peter, we express our deep faith in God as we hope and trust in him.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 30 October 2020.

We are made by the choices we make.


When I was still teaching in our diocesan schools, I used to tell my students to “study hard, work harder and pray hardest”, reminding them that their being good and successful lawyers, doctors, engineers or any professional starts not in the future but today, in the here and now.

Make the right choices in life by truly working on them not just at the spur of the moment or simply based on what others say. Most of all, pray first to discern God’s will for our decisions so we may choose what is best for us according to him.

God wants only the best for us — he made us share in his Life and gave us his only Son Jesus Christ to have its fullness in him here and in eternity. Unlike wealth managers who help people invest for their future, only Jesus assures us with sure, high yields in our “investments” in life by being good and holy.

A lot often, we decide and take risks based on the people we are with like when we have friends or superiors who are good and trustworthy. In the first reading we have heard how a faithful wife uses all her talents in serving her family as she is moved by the fidelity and love of her husband. The same is true if we have good and inspiring friends and employers who move us to be our very best. And most true of all with God who moves us to be our very best to lovingly serve him in others.

Here we find Jesus in his parable as the master who went on a long journey who risked all for us and continues to believe in us, giving us all the grace we need in this life to be fruitful in him.

All we have to do is just be faithful to him to whatever task and mission he has given us. It does not matter how big or small that may be; all he wants is for us to remain faithful to him, of not wasting that talent that must be put into good use not only for us but for others too.

If we are faithful to Jesus, anytime he returns to call us back to eternity, we can be sure of “sharing in his (master’s) joy” of Eternal Life! And if we are not faithful, then….

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 07 November 2020.

Today as we praise and thank God for the gift of life with the sun shining anew, let us ask ourselves following the recent calamities happening: what have I done with the many gifts and blessing God has given me? with the tasks, big and small, he has entrusted me?

Remember, it is not how big or how little talents we have received but how we have made it grow that matters. Our lives are the gift of God to us, what we do with our lives, that is our gift to him!

Have a blessed Sunday! Please pray and help our brothers and sisters in Cagayan and Rizal provinces severely affected by typhoon Ulysses. Lastly, kindly say a prayer for me and my six other classmates as we celebrate today (15 November 1997) our 23rd anniversary of ordination as Deacons. Amen.

Active waiting, authentic living now

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXXII-A in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2020
Wisdom 6:12-16   ><)))*>   1 Thessalonians 4:13-18   >><)))*>   Matthew 25:1-13
Photo from MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images, 10 September 2020 during the widespread California forest fires.

Beginning this Sunday until the Solemnity of Christ the King three weeks from now, we hear from the gospel Jesus speaking of his Second Coming at the end of time to render judgement to everyone.

It is during this time as we come to close the liturgical year and begin the new one with the Advent Season four weeks before Christmas when the Church reminds us in our Sunday Masses the true meaning of Christ’s Second Coming that have disturbed so many people for 2000 years.

Throughout history, it has spawned many doomsday and apocalyptic scenarios among peoples everywhere, particularly religious fanatics and cult followers with disastrous aftermaths like bloodbaths and murders despite their being anchored in a religious belief in God.

Lately there is a growing trend among some people of preparing for the final end of the world without any belief in God but more based on “science” and pop cultures but still with some degree of violence too.

And between these two extremes of awaiting the end of time with and without God, we find a majority who do not seem to care at all!

Everything comes to an end in order to begin anew.

Last Sunday in our reflection on All Saints Day we have mentioned the tension of the here and not yet, of Jesus being here now and still coming again at the end of time we call parousia which we proclaim in every Mass after the consecration.

This tension was a big deal during the time of the early Church with many believers including the Apostles believing they would witness the return of Jesus in their lifetime; but, when many of them started to die without the Second Coming happening, they began to question and reflect on the nature of parousia. They wondered what will happen with those who have died already and those left behind still alive when Christ comes again?

We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep… we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep… will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

From St. Paul’s reflections developed what we call escathology, that branch of theology dealing with the end of time and everything related with it like general and particular judgements, death and resurrection, parousia or Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.

It was St. Paul who insisted the centrality of Christ’s resurrection upon which is also hinged the resurrection of the dead and of his parousia (1Cor.15:14) which we call as mystery of our faith. For him, Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection of the dead, the beginning of the end time; therefore, the end is something we shall not fear but in fact be excited with because it is the final victory of God over sin and death. Yes, Christ had definitively won over death at the cross but it is on his Second Coming when death and sin are final vanished to give way to new heaven and new earth.

Everything will come to an end not to simply terminate all but in order to bring forth new beginnings! And the key is authentic living in every here and now.

From a post at Facebook, 2018.

Live in the present, not future; focus on life, not on dates.

It is sad when many among us Catholics specially those who celebrate Mass every Sunday acclaiming “Christ will come again” are the ones so afraid of end time, always asking for the blessing of their candles in the belief that these would save them from days of darkness.

Wrong! What will truly save us on judgement day is our firm faith in Jesus Christ, not blessed candles. Most of all, what will truly save us on judgement day is to live daily as authentic Christians witnessing the gospel values of Jesus Christ our Savior and Judge.


In today’s parable of the ten virgins awaiting the arrival of the groom, the Lord wants to instill among us the need to focus on the present moment of our lives not on any particular time or date because nobody knows when he would come like the groom in a wedding.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.

Matthew 25:1-4

We are all the virgins awaiting the coming of the groom for the wedding. We all came from God and we are designed to return to him in the end for eternal life. Here I find the late Stephen Covey so real in teaching us to always begin with the end in sight which is heaven. In one of his writings, he said “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey; we are spiritual beings on a human journey.”

In 2012, we were shocked when we heard news how he fell from a bicycle in an apparent accident and a few days later, he died. In an instant I have felt how this layman who strongly advocated the infusion of values into business and management is after all a saint, perhaps now in heaven.

His seven habits of highly successful people are all anchored in meaningful, authentic living in the present. That is being wise, of bringing extra oil of charity and kindness and goodness in life while actively waiting the coming of the groom, the coming of our death and end. Habit is something that is good we always do; its opposite is vice. (Stop saying bad habits.)


Life is keeping our lamps burning even if it produces little light than be extinguished and be plunged to total darkness. Nobody is perfect; we all have our lapses in life that is always in darkness. Like those virgins in the parable, wise and foolish alike, we feel drowsy and fall asleep.

Photo by author, Holy Thursday Mass, 2020.

Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.

Matthew 25:5

Therefore, all the more we need to be wise, not foolish. Being wise is always seeking and following the will of God who is Wisdom himself.

In the first reading, we are told how Wisdom as the personification of God himself can always be had by anyone sincerely searching for him.

Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.

Wisdom 6:12-14

To seek and obtain wisdom is to have pure or clean hearts that try to seek what is good, free of carnal desires and worldly allurements. Again, the need to have even the faintest light than be in total darkness.


So often, many things in our lives are decisively won – or lost – in a spur of the moment, in single crucial moments when everything comes to the fore. Woe not to those caught asleep but not ready or prepared, ill-equipped for the demand of the moment.

At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may be not enough for us and you. /go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.

Matthew 25:6-10
Photo by author, Baguio Cathedral, January 2018.

See how in the parable where everything was similar and the same: ten virgins with lamps becoming drowsy and falling asleep in the night waiting for the groom. Everything changes at midnight with the announcement of the arrival of the groom where the wise virgins were clearly distinguished from the foolish. The wise had extra oil and came into the wedding with the groom, leaving behind the foolish who had to buy for oil in the dead of the night only to return with doors locked, leaving them outside.

This is life in a nutshell: being ready when opportunity strikes is not based on luck but hard work.

And that is the saddest and difficult part we always take for granted: life is often decided on short, instant moments that in a snap of a finger can decide our rising or downfall.

This pandemic is an eye opener for everyone that caught so many of us unprepared.

Any extra oil kept in this time of the corona has proven so wise for some who have adjusted so well in the situation, coping and even managing so well amid the crisis.

What is so disappointing, even appalling are the foolish who chose to wallow in their follies, whining and blaming everyone for the troubles and mess without admitting their own shortcomings.

Let us heed the Lord’s call to “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt.25;13) by living authentically as his disciples in every here and now. Amen.

A blessed Sunday and week ahead to everyone!

Photo by author, 22 September 2020.

“King of Pain” by The Police (1983)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 01 November 2020
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Bohol, 2019.

I have lined up some songs with “heaven” in their titles or lyrics for this Sunday’s celebration of All Saints’ Day and tomorrow’s All Souls’ Day; but, during prayers and reflections, I kept on hearing Sting singing in my head King of Pain which is my most favorite among his long list of great music.

Our celebrations this November first and second are a mixture of joy and mourning, of heaven and sufferings, of life and death. As we remember today those already in heaven and tomorrow pray for those awaiting entrance into heaven, we also remember on these twin dates the death of loved ones.

No matter how much we may extoll the redemptive nature of death not as an end but a beginning of eternal life, we cannot miss the sadness and pain it brings to everyone that is always for a lifetime.

And that is what hope is all about: hope does not remove sadness or pain. When we hope of getting into heaven with our departed loved ones, no matter how blissful heaven may be, we always have to deal with the hurts of losing a parent or a spouse, a sibling or a friend.

To hope means to firmly believe that when things get worst, even unto death, there is Life itself, God remaining in the end, loving us, taking us to his presence in heaven to live life in its fullness in him.

To hope means to face new beginnings in this life amid the pains we have in our hearts from deaths and separations, believing that someday, if not in this life, everything would be whole and perfect again.

That is why I find King of Pain more apt for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

Written by Sting in 1982 at the Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novels, King of Pain expresses the inner torments he was going through as an individual at that time — his recent divorce from his first wife and growing misunderstanding with his other two colleagues, Andrew Summers and Stewart Copeland. They eventually parted ways after the release of the Synchronicity album from which King of Pain came in 1983.

The beat, the music and the lyrics seem to be dark and melancholic at first but as you get the feel of the entire song sung by Sting, then you realize it is actually about a man struggling with sadness or even depression, of a man filled with hopes until you realize it is speaking about you as king of pain.

Aren’t we all the king of pain in one or the other?

And as we bear all the pains, we keep on forging on with life, we never resign but keep hoping even for a piece of heaven, of the sun to celebrate life each day until we make it to the Other Side like our departed loved ones.

All in the grace of a loving God. Amen.

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group