“Sanaol”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in Third Week of Easter, 04 May 2022
Acts 8:1-8   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 6:35-40
Photo by author, ICSB in Malolos City, Summer 2021.
"Sanaol" - a wish and a prayer
that all may be blessed, 
that like the flowers of summer,
everyone may bloom in the Lord.
"Sanaol" was the good news
after that Pentecost when
Jesus Christ's good news of
salvation was proclaimed to all;
despite the persecutions that
began in Jerusalem and "all were
scattered throughout Judea and
Samaria, except the Apostles, 
there were great joy in that
city" (Acts 8:1, 8) because 
everyone was blessed, 
everyone was welcomed,
everyone was accepted.
"Sanaol", Lord Jesus,
would accept you in the 
Eucharist and eventually in
the person of everyone we meet;
it is you, dear Jesus, who brings
joy and fulfillment in everyone
of us whenever we receive and
welcome you in the Eucharist
and in every person we meet.

Jesus said to the crowds, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst. But I told you that although you have seen me, you do not believe.

John 6:35-36
What has happened to us,
Lord Jesus?
We have turned away from you 
and from each other, choosing to
believe in thoughts and ideas,
in personalities, and all the 
fancies around them from colors
to cults that have brought us 
divisions and even persecutions.

Let us seek you again, dear Jesus,
and listen more to your voice
than to all the noises barraging us
especially at this crucial time
of the elections.
"Sanaol" will listen to you again,
and find you anew in everyone. 
Amen.

When God seems to be far and does not care at all

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 30 March 2022
Isaiah 49:8-15   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 5:17-30
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, local residents stranded at the airport hoping to fly home to families during the 2020 lockdown.
There were so many times
in life especially during the
first year of the prolonged
COVID-19 lockdown that we
felt like your people thrown
into exile to Babylon, crying
out, "The Lord has forsaken me;
my Lord has forgotten me"
(Isaiah 49:14).
But looking back to those days of
the lockdown, of how we have 
survived COVID and so many other
problems, sickness and difficulties, 
the more we have realized your loving
presence and involvement in our
struggles and hardships; you have not
only healed and saved us but even
opened many opportunities in life
during those trying moments!

Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.

Isaiah 49:15
Deepen our faith in you, O God,
especially when we could not 
understand the things happening
in our lives and around us; many times, 
we could not also understand your
very words expressed to us by 
Jesus like in the gospel today.
In times like that, Lord, please
let us just feel you, love you,
and trust you for surely, nothing
ever happens without your knowing.
Amen.

Repenting, remaining in God present in us, with us in Christ

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Lent-C, 20 March 2022
Exodus 3:1-8, 13-15 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, 10-12 ><}}}*> Luke 13:1-9
Photo by author, July 2020 in Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

As I have told you at the start of this 40-day journey, Lent is like a coming home to God with Ash Wednesday until Saturday after as the porch and each Sunday a door leading us into the inner rooms closer to God.

At each door these past two Sundays, we were opened to God’s majesty and wonder, love and mercy in Jesus Christ who had come to help us triumph over many temptations in life, to be transformed and transfigured in him.

With Luke as our guide this year, he had opened to us each Sunday a very unique door to experience God’s majesty and mystery, his love and mercy offered in Jesus Christ.

This becomes most pronounced this Third and Fourth Sundays when we find his gospel stories as exclusively his alone: Christ’s call to repentance following the news of Pilate’s massacre of 18 Galileans during a temple worship and the parable of the Merciful Father more known as parable of the Prodigal Son.

Some people told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus said to them in reply, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did! Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means! But I tell you, if you do not repent, you will all perish as they did!”

Luke 13:1-5
Photo by author, parish Via Crucis, 11 March 2022.

Our “blaming game”

At first hearing, our gospel today sounds like a news broadcast of brutalities and mishaps, trials and sufferings happening almost daily around the world. So many times, they happen closest to us personally or within our own circles of family and friends.

Only Luke has this account of teaching by Jesus; nowhere would you find in the gospels any account of Pilate ordering this massacre of Galileans but the Jewish historian Josephus had recorded many instances of the Roman governor’s ruthless reign.

And here we find the artistry of Luke in inserting this scene in his gospel the Church has chosen as part of our Lenten itinerary. So often in life, we keep on blaming somebody else except our very selves for every negative things happening to us and around us, even considering it as “divine chastisements” or karma to those people we consider as evil.

It is true that evil begets evil, but the seeming dominion of sin and evil in the world is so wide for us to attribute blame only to certain persons as if others, including ourselves, had no part in it. It always takes two to tango!

Worst case of this “blaming game” of ours is to even link our sufferings and trials with God.

Nothing bad can ever come from God like disasters and catastrophes, sickness and turmoils because God is love. God offers only life, never death nor destruction for he does only what is good. It is very wrong to think at all that God has something to do with any of these problems happening in the world like the pandemic or in our personal lives.

Photo by author, Sinai Mountain Range in Egypt, May 2019.

This is the gist of the Lord’s response to the people bringing him the bad news of the 18 Galileans ordered massacred by Pilate, “Do you think that because these Galileans suffered in this way they were greater sinners than all other Galileans? By no means!”. God does not punish at all! Bad things happen because of sins and that is what we always have to look inside us, how have we contributed to the evil happening.

And to make it clearer that God has nothing to do whatsoever with all these bad things happening to us, Jesus added, “Or those eighteen people who were killed when the tower at Siloam fell on them – do you think they were more guilty than everyone else who lived in Jerusalem? By no means!”.

However, Jesus is not telling us to be resigned to the absurdities of the world and of humankind. We can all do something to greatly prevent and reduce all these misfortunes and sufferings around us and that is the way of repentance, of conversion – the very calls of the prophets in the Old Testament and by John the Baptist.

Now, Jesus our Savior, the Son of God, is voicing out this call of repentance with urgency and new authority not only because it is the only way back to God but precisely due to his very nature of being loving and patient, merciful and forgiving.

The kind of God we have, the only one there is

The grace of this third Sunday of Lent is the revelation of the kind of God we have, the only one there is: a very loving and patient, merciful and forgiving God who is also perfectly present among us in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, site of the burning bush in Sinai now inside St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.

In the first reading, we are told of that unforgettable scene of Moses at the burning bush where God revealed himself as “I AM WHO AM” – the One who is always present with us in the past, in the future, and most especially in every here and now, the present moment.

When we think of God, what comes to our mind, what do we say about him?

God told Moses “Thus you say to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:15) to remind them that this God has always been present with his people.

With Abraham, God first made the promise of being the father of all nations (last Sunday’s first reading), to Isaac he revealed himself in the stairway to heaven, and to Jacob that he would bring them to Egypt and liberate them after. Now in Moses, everything is coming into fulfillment of this great nation to be set free by God, a prefiguration Christ and his saving mission.

Throughout history, God never left his people, working great marvels in the past to deliver them from slavery, a passing over and exodus, assuring us of his presence and salvation in the future by remaining at our side.

History is cyclic, everything seems to be happening again but with an upward trajectory towards God; in every repetition of history, the question is where are we standing with God, are we still the same the first time we encountered him, descending to vice and sins or have we grown in virtues and holiness?

Salvation history and secular history continue to unfold for both are one in God; hence, we must not waste every moment to return to God, to repent and be converted. Beware of Paul’s warning, “Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor. 10:12)! Remember those Galileans massacred by Pilate or those 18 people at Siloam crushed to death by tower that had fallen – anything can happen with us, so be ready. Never leave God who is always with us, assuring us with salvation in Jesus.

Beginning this Sunday, continuing to next week with the parable of the prodigal son and finally on the fifth Sunday of Lent when we skip Luke’s gospel to borrow from John for the story of the woman caught in adultery, we are being immersed into the deeper mystery of this God we call Father made known to us by Jesus Christ through his own passion, death and resurrection.

The more we enter God’s mystery every Sunday of Lent, the more his “height, breath and depth” (Eph. 3:18) appear to us, making us realize he is real, very true like another person we can feel and hear, always with us, patiently waiting for us to bear fruit like the owner of the fig tree in the parable.

How have you experienced God’s presence this past week?

What else do we need to be convinced of his love and mercy that we still refuse to repent and be converted in Jesus Christ?

The time is now, not yesterday or tomorrow for God is I AM WHO AM, one who is in the present. Amen. Have a blessed week.

Thank you for the prayers; I am home trying to recuperate from my surgery.

Photo by author, inside St. Catherine Monastery with Mt. Sinai at the background in Egypt, May 2019.

Praying for Ukraine

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week VIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 28 February 2022
1 Peter 1:3-9   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 10:17-27
Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com
Your words today, O Lord,
remind me so much of our 
brothers and sisters in Ukraine
now suffering too much a week 
after Russian forces invaded them;
they are exactly like the early 
Christians being persecuted 
during the time of St. Peter:

In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet you believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of faith, the salvation of your souls.

1 Peter 1:6-9
So many times, Lord, the faith of
your people in Ukraine had been tested
in so many instances but this war now 
going on is something not only too difficult
to wage but to grasp even for us from a far
and distant land from them.
Though we do not see each other,
we feel their pains and hurts, their worries
and anxieties, most especially their fears
and uncertainties; I pray, dear God, for more
strength and courage, more unity among 
the people of Ukraine; most of all, 
I pray for deeper hope among them,
that even if things get worst, they too
may rise from the dead like your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord and true hope.
At the same time, dear Jesus,
I pray most fervently for Russian
President Putin - a very rich man 
like the one in today's gospel
who clings so much to wealth and 
power; it is so sad and deplorable
that a man like him in this age would
do the unthinkable and shameful act
of waging a war against a smaller and
peaceful nation that is their neighbor!
Awake the Russians, O Lord, 
from their drunkenness to power
and wealth; awake the Russians, O Lord,
to realize not only the follies of wars
but most especially the precious
value of every human life.  Amen.

Anniversaries are for the hearts

QuietStorm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Homily for the 55th Anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima University and
Fatima University Medical Center, 14 February 2022
From Facebook, 14 February 2022.

Every anniversary is a celebration for the heart, of the heart.

Every anniversary is an occasion to look and examine our hearts, to fill our hearts with gratitude and joy for the gift of life and existence, of mission that continues despite and in spite of so many things; a time to cleanse our hearts of pains from the hurts of the past; and, most of all, to open our hearts anew to more challenges and opportunities for deepening and fulfillment.

In keeping with our tradition, we gather on this Valentine’s Day to praise and thank God for his outpouring of blessings in the past 55 years to Our Lady of Fatima University and the Fatima University Medical Center.

Despite the disruptions and problems COVID-19 had caused us that continues to this day, our hearts are overflowing with thanksgiving and great hopes for better tomorrow for our beloved OLFU and FUMC.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-3
Photo from Facebook/OLFU.

St. James reminds us today of yesterday’s sermon on the plains by Jesus Christ that truly blessed are those who are poor, hungry, weeping, and maligned and persecuted for standing for what is true (Lk.6:20-26).

Inasmuch as we greatly dislike inconvenience and sufferings, failures and powerlessness, poverty and sickness, we have experienced that true growth and maturity can only happen by going through difficulties that bring out the best in us through time than the instant gratifications and feel-good sensations offered by the world.

Those who have been with us for over 30 years have witnessed how our University and Medical Center have grown from initially two buildings – the old hospital and nursing school – here at the Valenzuela campus along McArthur Highway now composed with 16 buildings with five other campuses in Quezon City, Antipolo (with another medical center), San Fernando, Cabanatuan, and Sta. Rosa in Laguna.

There were so many difficulties and even mistakes during those years but everybody persevered, hurdling all the trials to establish Our Lady of Fatima University and the Fatima University Medical Center as one of the leading centers of learning and medical sciences in the country with its innovative courses and programs available to more people.

We strived. And we never stopped.

Photo from Facebook/OLFU.

When the COVID-19 pandemic came in 2020, many of our plans were deferred but we continued to persevere in this modern crisis. It is still the most difficult trial we have ever faced in our lives, changing so much the way we live these days.

Despite the uncertainties and yes, fears, we sought ways and new methods in dealing with the crisis, becoming the first school of medicine to offer limited face-to-face classes. Eventually, we opened many of our courses to limited face-to-face classes last year still ahead of other schools and universities.

It was during these difficult years of the pandemic when our vision and mission have become most clear than ever to be a fount of “truth and mercy” during this great period of crisis by “rising to the top” through innovative new methods and approaches in the fields of education, medical sciences and management.

Truly, trials perfect and make us complete as men and women ready to serve and lead others to achieving their dreams and caring for the sick.

St. John of the Cross said “The soul that walks in love is never tired and never tires others.”

On this day of the hearts as we celebrate our 55th anniversary, let us borrow from this great mystic of the Church his words with a slight twist, “The heart that walks in love is never tired and never tires others”.

Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center in Antipolo, photo from OLFU/FB.

In the gospel we have heard the story of the Mary’s visitation of her cousin Elizabeth then six months pregnant with John the Baptist. Mary had just conceived through the Holy Spirit our Lord Jesus Christ and she hurriedly went to visit Elizabeth.

A beautiful scene of two great women together, conversing and rejoicing in God. Very rare in the bible do we find two women together in one scene and Luke presents this to us to remind us of the wrong perception at that time – that sadly persists to this day – of women taken for granted and looked down upon. Most especially the Virgin Mary who came from the obscure town of Nazareth and compared with her cousin Elizabeth who came from a family of priests, the Blessed Mother was a “nobody”, a simple, country maiden.

But in Mary’s simplicity, we find an important aspect of the heart – of being open to God, of always welcoming Jesus into our hearts to allow ourselves to be his instruments of change. What a beautiful coincidence or divine will that largely behind the success of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center are three great women too! – our late co-founder Mrs. Juliet Santos, our President, Dr. Caroline Santos-Enriquez and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees, Dr. Yvonne Santos-Guevarra.

Filled with love for God and for her cousin Elizabeth, the Blessed Virgin Mary went in haste to visit her to show support and recognition to the plan of God to the baby in her womb; filled with love in her heart, Mary visited Elizabeth to share in God’s divine plan of saving mankind.

Aside from facing trials with perseverance, Elizabeth tells us today another thing about true blessedness through Mary: believing that the words of God will be fulfilled!

Photo from OLFU/FB.

My dear friends, the Administrators and Board Directors of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center, our dear students and faculty members, fellow employees, and alumni: on this Valentine’s day we not only look into our hearts but also give our hearts to Jesus as the Blessed Virgin Mary had told us at Fatima, Portugal over a hundred years ago.

Like our Lady of Fatima, let our love for God flow to our love for one another.

Like Mary at Fatima, let our love for others be more intense and encompassing in leading men and women into knowledge and wisdom, well-being and health.

Like Mary at Fatima and through her prayers, let our hearts be cleansed and purified to make our faith more firm and our hope more vibrant in Christ who calls us to follow his truth and imitate his mercy. Amen.

A blessed happy 55th anniversary to you!

Praying for joy and wisdom

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Cyril, Bishop and St. Methodius, Monk, 14 February 2022
James 1:1-11   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Mark 8:11-13
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 2019.
So many people today, O Lord,
are so busy and excited, being  
Valentine's day, a day of the heart
when sweethearts speak sweet 
nothings, giving flowers to
express their love to their beloved.
I can't blame them, O Lord,
for being taken for a ride in this
highly commercialized world that
has become more stressful;
people have been suffering from
so many forms of difficulties and 
trials that for many, they try to 
escape momentarily.

Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials, for you know the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4
Teach, O Lord, to consider it true
joy and a blessing in disguise every
trial we go through in life; inasmuch as
we greatly dislike inconvenience and 
sufferings, failures and powerlessness,
poverty and sickness, may we recall 
yesterday's Beatitudes, that true
blessedness and joy come from going
through these difficulties that bring out
the best in us through time than the 
instant gratifications and feel-good 
offered by the world.
Grant us the wisdom to appreciate
the trials that come our way, producing
in us the depth and maturity that lead 
to fulfillment and perfection; may we
stop looking for outward signs like 
those Pharisees who kept on debating
with Jesus without any intentions of 
being open to find and accept him.
Amen.
Brothers Saints Cyril and
Methodius,
Pray for us!

Endings are new beginnings

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXXIII-B in Ordinary Time, 14 November 2021
Daniel 12:1-3 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 10:11-14, 18 ><]]]]'> Mark 13:24-32
Photo by author, lantern store in San Fernando, Pampanga, 11 November 2021.

With nowhere else to go last Thursday during my day off, I headed north to the Christmas capital of the Philippines to check on the colorful lanterns or parol sold along the highway in San Fernando, Pampanga.

What a sight to behold, a refreshing break from two years of quarantine and a better alternative to the malls! Like the stars above they represent, these colorful lanterns are best seen at night, when darkness is all around us like when Jesus was born on first Christmas – the darkest night of the year – to be our light in the world. And that is his message on this penultimate Sunday in our Church calendar when we hear him teaching us about the end of time.

Jesus said to his disciples: “In those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in the clouds’ with great power and glory, and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”

Mark 13:24-27

With or without God, the “end of the world” has always been one of mankind’s preoccupation. We Christians are the most eager, having put on so much thoughts and efforts and concerns about the end of the world because it was spoken by Jesus Christ himself. However, it is not just an end of the world as portrayed in many Hollywood films that evoke fear with all the deaths and destructions happening.

When Jesus spoke of the tribulations and the darkening of the sun and the moon with stars falling, he was speaking in symbolic languages common at that time. It is a part of theology called escathology that deals with everything about the last things but, it is not all destruction. The end that Jesus spoke of to his disciples follows a certain direction towards the final end which is the eternal glory of God.

Hence, our faith about the end of the world at the Second Coming of Christ should not evoke fear in us because it will be the final fulfillment God’s plan that we shall all be with him in all eternity. On the contrary, Jesus speaking of the end of time should bring us hope and joy for better tomorrow. If it were so bad that everything would be destroyed and gone, how could he “come in the clouds with great power and glory”? Jesus was clearly speaking of good things than bad things here, of the passing of old to be replaced with new and better ones.

Photo by author, view of Jerusalem Temple from the Mount of Olives, 2019.

In fact, Jesus was encouraging the Twelve in this scene when they were by themselves on the Mount of Olives across the Temple. It was a very private moment when Jesus spoke of these things to the Twelve after Peter had inquired about the coming destruction of the Temple the Lord had told them after a disciple marveled at its magnificent stones.

Of course, we know nothing is permanent in this world, no matter how beautiful and sound it may be.

One thing we notice at the very start of Mark’s gospel is the presence of tribulations both in the time of Jesus and early Christians. Remember that in Mark’s account, the beginning of the “good news” of Jesus Christ is the story of the arrest of John the Baptist, a very bad news at that time (Mk.1:14). It was the “ending” of the preaching by John the Baptist but the beginning of the ministry of Jesus Christ.

When Mark wrote his gospel, the early Christians have already experienced persecutions and many sufferings like when Nero blamed them for the great fire that burned Rome in year 68. Although the Temple was still intact when Mark wrote his gospel account, there were already persistent rumors of the coming attack in Jerusalem by the Roman army which took place in year 70.

These teachings of the end of the world and Second Coming were meant by Jesus to strengthen and assure his disciples that include us in this time not to panic nor be shaken by trials and tribulations. So often in life, it is when we are sick or defeated, when we are down when we actually see the light clearer, when God begins to work his wonders in us and for us.

This Sunday, our first reading and gospel both tell us to never lose heart in the face of darkness and sufferings, encouraging us to remain faithful to God because he is coming, he has come and he is come inaugurating his kingdom right here in our hearts, among us (Lk.17:21).

Endings are new beginnings. Welcome every ending or closing in life. Most of all, be ready for no one knows the exact day nor time when it would come and happen.

“Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heave, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Mark 13:28-32
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

It is useless and impractical to know the date and time when all these things will happen because salvation and any other change will never be realized when they are determined. Instead of waiting for the date, do everything in every here and now so that we become more prepared how to act properly when faced with the Lord’s Second Coming and whatever emergencies in life. This is the meaning of the parable of the fig tree when we learn to read the signs of the times and other events in our lives in the spiritual sense and not just in human terms like this pandemic.

It is our task as a believer and as a community to decipher and discern their spiritual meanings because these are grace-filled moments for growth and maturity in the Lord. Jesus assures us that he is definitely coming. He is the God of history. This is the gist of the first reading where Daniel had seen in a vision mankind’s moving forward in history with all the ups and downs with just one assurance: “the wise shall shine brightly like the splendor of the firmament, and those who lead the many to justice shall be like the stars forever” (Dan.12:3). This was eventually fulfilled in Jesus.

Every time we see and hear or even experience disasters and famines, pandemics and wars, coming of false prophets and despots, elections and other upheavals, they are harbingers of the coming of Jesus Christ. The more darkness and sufferings come, the more everything seemed to be ending or even lost, that is when surely the Lord is coming.

The second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews tells us how Jesus seated at the right hand of God in heaven awaits until all things on earth come to completion as planned while we stand vigilant, faithfully awaiting also that day when we shall be with him in all his glory. Let us do our part specially in this time of the pandemic which is a wake up call than a punishment for our sins because God does not punish at all.

This darkness above us calls us to deepen our faith, hope and love in God through one another that we become Christ’s loving presence. Jesus is definitely coming. Are we ready?

Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.

Photo by author, lantern store in San Fernando, Pampanga that shows us how in the darkness of this pandemic, slowly we can now see the beauty and light of God’s love and mercy (11 November 2021).

Mary, our model in time of sorrows

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September 2021
Hebrews 5:7-9   ><)))*> + <*(((>< + ><)))*> + <*(((><   John 19:25-27
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
Lest we forget
a day after the Feast of 
the Exaltation of the Cross,
you remind us today O Lord
Jesus Christ of your beautiful 
gift to us, your own Sorrowful Mother
not only to comfort us in times of
trials and sufferings but also as our
model in discipleship when things
become harsh and unbearable 
like during this pandemic. 

Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Hebrews 5:8-9
The first to obey you,
dear Jesus from the very start
has always been Mary your Mother;
no wonder as your beloved disciple
had told us unlike the other evangelists,
your Mother and her sister stood by
your cross that Good Friday,
remaining there with you until
your last breath, until the soldier
pierced your side from which flowed
blood and water.
Bless us with the same courage
of your Mother, dear Jesus to remain
faithful to you, to keep on hoping and 
believing even in the face of so many deaths
these days; bless us with the same dignity
and serenity of Mary in the face of so much
agonies especially those mothers who
have lost sons and daughters 
in this pandemic.
Most of all,
it was there at the foot of the cross
when you called again your Mother
as "Woman"
like at the wedding feast at Cana
and entrusted her to your beloved disciple
to make her the image
of the "New Israel", the Church,
your Body here on earth.
Bless us with the courage and
humility, the silence and hiddenness
of Mary to "give birth" to new members
of your Church now under attacks
from within by her members
led by unfaithful priests;
and from the outside world
that has turned away from you,
refusing to accept your truths
in this age of individualism
and relativism.
Our Lady of Sorrows,
pray for us to comfort the many
among us suffering and crying
in silence with so many pains
 especially from their own families
and people supposed to love
and care for them.
Amen.
Photo by the late Mr. Noli Yamsuan, Pieta at the Manila Cathedral, 2012.

Knowing Jesus with conviction

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIV-B in Ordinary Time, 12 September 2021
Isaiah 50:5-9 ><]]]]'> James 2:14-18 ><]]]]'> Mark 8:27-35
Photo by author, Parish of St. Joseph, Baras, Rizal (January 2021).

Last Wednesday as we celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a friend told me how on the eve of that feast her eldest son Andrei expressed to her his wish to gift Mama Mary with a cake but did not know how to get to heaven. “Bibili ko sana siya ng cake, mommy, pero paano ako mapupunta sa langit?”

My friend simply told her son how difficult it is to get into heaven because he has to get so many ladders to get there and see Mama Mary and Jesus.

What a beautiful question from a child filled with innocence, “how do we get into heaven?”

Ironically, it is a question we all know the answer but do not care nor take seriously for many reasons, primarily because of fear until this pandemic hit us, forcing us into facing again this reality of death – of going into heaven.

In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us how we can get into heaven by knowing him truly with conviction, not just according to our own or somebody else’s thinking and ideas of him as the Christ.

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.

Mark 8:27-31

Other’s opinion vs. my conviction

When we look at the gospel of Mark as a whole, we find it is a step-by-step revelation of who is Jesus Christ, following certain stages in his stories. Notice since the beginning Mark has been telling us how the people including the Twelve were asking among themselves who was Jesus for he spoke with authority that even the sea and the wind obeyed him while demons cried when exorcised by him. People were so amazed at his great powers, both in words and in deeds that everybody was getting near him to know him.

Photo by author, St. Catherine Monastery at Sinai, Egypt (May 2019)

It is at Caesarea Philippi where Mark’s gospel reaches the middle section, a turning point when Jesus reveals himself in stages.

From here on, Mark will take a faster pace in his narration and revelation of who is Jesus now making a U-turn from Caesarea Philippi to head towards Jerusalem to face his death. We too are expected to make a U-turn in our knowledge of Jesus, from mere opinions of others to a personal conviction of who Jesus is.

Observe the step-by-step manner by Jesus in revealing himself to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi.

First, Jesus surveyed the Twelve, asking them “Who do people say that I am?”.

Feel the uncertainty among them while telling Jesus what they have heard the people saying: John the Baptist? Elijah? One of the prophets?

We find a tinge of being unsure even in themselves in what to tell the Lord because they have also heard the questions and accusations by the scribes and Pharisees against their young teacher. “Kabado sila” as we say in Filipino.

But to their surprise, Jesus came up with a second question directly to each one of them at point blank, requiring a deep, personal conviction and commitment: “But who do you say that I am?”.

Like at Capernaum after the bread of life discourse when everybody left Jesus led by his disciples, here he is asking the Twelve -including us – again for a faith decision, to say what we really feel and think about him, without repeating what we have heard from others or read from any book.

Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” See in this statement by Peter the clear difference from the people’s opinions of Jesus. Feel the conviction of Peter in declaring “you are the Christ.” There must have been something he had experienced deep within that he felt Jesus so real, so new, so alive – not just any prophet from old who had come back but in fact the very one referred to by the prophets before!

Jesus is clearly distinct and different from what we have heard and read, so personal and so true. As we would usually tell others of how convinced we are of someone or something, “ah, basta!” which is akin to Archimedes’ “eureka” experience.

Like at Caesarea Philippi, our lives get on a turning point significantly once we have had that kind of experience of who Jesus Christ is. We can never grow deep in our faith in him and experience him personally without that Caesarea Philippi experience.

However, it is not everything. Even Peter would falter immediately after this turning point.

He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Mark 8:32-33
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

Christ’s pedagogy of the Cross

It is not enough that we set aside sometimes what others say or write about Jesus; we also have to discard and forget whatever we have entertained in our minds and hearts on who Jesus could be. In telling Peter to “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”, Jesus is telling us too that it is still a long way to go for us to truly know him.

Remember that in Jewish thought, to know someone is to have a relationship, an intimacy with the other person. Although the disciples have already taken a great step in knowing Jesus as the Christ following Peter’s confession that is so distinct from what others say, such knowledge leads us to the hardest and most difficult stage of knowing Jesus through his Cross.

It is can also be the most painful stage in truly knowing Jesus that is why he warned them not to tell anyone about him like what Peter realized that he reacted that way. Of course, we also know how Peter got to know Jesus more in the most painful way when he denied knowing the Lord thrice on the night he was arrested leading to Good Friday.

Remember, the more we get to know Jesus, the more we experience him so real in our lives, the more we follow him, the more the devil confuses us, the more the devil feeds us with so many thoughts or sends us with people like those in this Administration and politicians now campaigning with grand designs, with great intentions for Jesus and for the poor when in fact detract us from the path of the Cross.

Notice how Jesus insisted in his first prediction of his Passion, Death and Resurrection at Caesarea Philippi that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” There is always that qualifier “must” in suffering and pain with Jesus for there is no shortcut nor easy way to get to heaven, to be holy, to be fulfilled in this life which is so unlike the promises of the devil acting in our selfish thoughts or among our politicians and government officials.

Jesus himself had shown us in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection the key to truly knowing him is to have a complete trust in the Father like him as the Servant referred to in the first reading from Isaiah who bore all insults and beatings but never felt disgraced because “the Lord God is my help.”

For so long in our country, many have been duped by politicians who have promised the people of a wonderful life minus sufferings by just electing them into office. All these miseries and misfortunes we are into show us clearly that hardly do we really know who is Jesus Christ as we keep on putting into office people we hardly know as demons in many disguises.

During this pandemic when we have so much time to reflect and pray, let us empty our hearts and minds, exorcise them of many evil thoughts to be penetrated by the divine thoughts found in the scriptures so we may know Jesus clearly, love him dearly, and follow him closely with our lives of faith expressed in works of charity as James exhorts us in the second reading.

It is the clearest sign that we truly know Jesus when our faith in him bears much fruits in works of charity and mercy. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, close-up shot of the Seventh Station of the Cross at St. Ildephonsus Parish, Tanay, Rizal (January 2021). Notice one of the men wearing shades believed to be Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus; we have to remove our shades to truly know Jesus especially when there are trials and sufferings in life. See our article, https://lordmychef.com/2021/02/04/road-trip-in-time-of-covid-19-the-company-we-keep-in-lifes-journey/

Transfiguration in time of corona

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 06 August 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10
A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the Feast
of your Son Jesus Christ's Transfiguration,
we come to you amid the same darkness
that enveloped them that night atop Mount Tabor
as we enter another series of lockdown
in this COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken
faith in you among many of us.
Like the apostles before his Transfiguration,
we too are wondering the meaning of Christ's  
Passion and Death when he is your Son, the Messiah.
"How could he suffer and die?", they must have wondered.
In the same manner, we too wonder, could not stop
the questions coming from deep within us why are you
allowing these sufferings and trials, Lord?
Have you been angry with us, Lord, that these happen?
Jesus took Peter, James,
and John and led them up a high
mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach
them... Then a cloud came, casting
a shadow over them; then from the
cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved
Son.  Listen to him." (Mark 9:2-3, 7)
Like Peter during the Transfiguration,
we do not know what we are saying to you, Lord;
whether we are filled with joy or burdened
with sorrow, we speak without thinking much
even if you know what is in our hearts.
Open our hearts, dear God, to always
listen to your Son by remaining with him
in his journey on the path to his Cross.
Moreover, we possess
the prophetic message that is
altogether reliable.  You will do well
to be attentive to it, as to a lamp
 shining in a dark place, until day dawns
and the morning star rises
in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19) 
Bring us back to the path of faith in you, Father;
despite our dismal progress or lack of faith this year due to 
the many trials and difficulties by this pandemic, 
open our hearts to let us go back to you in Jesus, 
listening to him intently when all is dark and even dead 
because for as long as we return to you, sin and failures
become means for us to be changed and transformed -
transfigured when we rise in Jesus Christ's Resurrection.
Amen.