Paalala ng Banaba

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-30 ng Abril 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Immaculate Conception School for Boys, Malolos City, 27 Abril 2021.
Tirik noon ang araw 
aking ramdam ang init at alinsangan
sa paradahan ng paaralan, 
nanunuyo lalamunan habang 
tagatak ang pawis, naiinis 
naiinip, kailan aalis
virus ng COVID-19 sa atin;
kaya hanggang sa gitna ng init
sumasagitsit sa isip at kamalayan
paghihirap nating pinagdaraanan
nang ako'y maginhawahan sa malamig na lilim
ng nakayungayong mga dahon at sanga ng Banaba;
sa aking paglingon patingala
ako ay namangha at nabighani
mga lilang bulaklak namumukadkad
handog ay kagalakan at kapahingahan.
Luminga-linga pa ako sa kapaligiran
saka lamang napagmasdan
isa pang puno ng Banaba nalampasan
hitik sa mga bulaklak niyang lila
naroon din sa bukana ng paaralan
nagpaparamdam ng mahalagang aral
matutunan sa pandemyang pinagdaraanan:
kung kailan kainitan,
walang patak ng ulan
saka ipinagyayabang nitong Banaba
angking kagandahan at kabutihan
maging kahusayan dapat nating tularan
sa panahon ng kagipitan, doon lumalabas
tunay nating kulay -
ikaw ba'y matamlay at mapusyaw
at hindi makagalaw?
Alalahanin pangangaral ni Hesus nating mahal,
"At bakit kayo nababagabag tungkol sa pananamit?
Isipin ninyo kung paanong sumisibol
mga bulaklak sa parang, hindi nagpapagal
ni humahabi man; maging si Solomon
sa kanyang karangyaan hindi naramtan
ng gayong karinglan!
Kaya't huwag kayong mabalisa
sa inyong kakanin, iinumin o daramtin."
Madaling sabihin, mahirap gawin
lalo na sa marami sa atin sapin-sapin
suson-suson mga paghamon sa buhay
ngunit sa puno ng Banaba naroon
ating tugon:  magpakatatag sa pagkabaon sa lupa
paglipas ng taon uusbong mga dahon at bulaklak
dulot nitong bunga lunas sa maraming sakit at karamdaman.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Immaculate Conception School for Boys, Malolos City, 27 Abril 2021.

The need to be one in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 30 April 2021 (St. Pius V, memorial)
Acts 13:26-33   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:1-6
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me."
(John 14:1)

O dearest Lord Jesus Christ, how can we not let our hearts be troubled these days?

How can we not be troubled and worried with this prolonged pandemic and resulting quarantine made worst with our government’s inefficiency and incompetence, thriving in lies and malice against everybody who is not on their side and political color?

How can we not be troubled, Lord, when more and more people are sinking into depression, languishing, losing hope and meaning in this life?

Like your apostles at that time, we are trembling in fear as to what will happen to us, to our jobs, to the schooling of children, to our sick family members, to our very selves as well as to our country and its future.

We know that now is the time to be ever closer to you, Lord Jesus – to be one with you, to be one in you but, like Thomas, we do not know the way.

Help us in our unbelief and increase our faith, Lord!

Most of all, let us imitate Thomas your Apostle who dared ask you the simplest question we are afraid to ask because we also fear your answer might demand courage from us to totally identify ourselves to your values and attitudes being the Way, the Truth and the Life yourself.

Our hearts will always be troubled unless we have that deep relationship in you and with you, Jesus.

Like Paul in the first reading, give us that sense of firmness and certitude in your very person so that we may firmly and joyfully proclaim your Good News of salvation in these most troubling times of pandemic and divisions among us your people. Amen.

A lamentation prayer on Divine Mercy Sunday

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), 11 April 2021
 Acts 4:32-35  >><)))*>  1John 5:1-6  >><)))*>  John 20:19-31
Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas” from en.wikipedia.org.

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven! Despite the recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still here today celebrating the Easter Octave which is also the Divine Mercy Sunday of your Son Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the gift of life.

Thank your for the tears we have been shedding lately for those whom we have lost.

Thank you for the gift of faith in you, for the grace to still pray amid all the pains and sufferings coming our way.

Thank you so much for our medical frontliners who are so exhausted and drained serving us for over a year now since this pandemic started. Keep them strong in body, mind and soul. Take care of their families and loved ones. We want to see them and celebrate with them when this is all over so we may thank them personally for being our rays of hope and life in these times.

Thank you also for those who have been working tirelessly especially at night so we can have bread and other food in the morning, those who keep our industries and utilities running, those people we hardly know and remember but so essential not only in keeping us alive and comfortable but most of all sane in this crazy period in history.

You know very well our cries, our complaints and our pleadings, dear Father.

Forgive us when we forget those living in the margins, suffering and crying in silence, those who have stopped going to school, those who have lost jobs, those to be evicted from their homes for lack of money to pay their rentals, for those who could not make their ends meet.

Dear Father in heaven… we do not know what else to do. Show us the way in Jesus, the object of our faith, the guarantee of our hope and future glory in you.

And for those now in your presence, those who have gone ahead of us, we pray for their eternal rest, O Lord. We pray also for those they have left behind. One death is too many, Lord.

Rekindle our faith, direct our gaze onto your Son Jesus Christ who had conquered death and sin, sickness and darkness in his Resurrection.

Like Thomas his apostle, make us realize that we can only recognize him in his wounds from the cross.

And like Thomas called Didymus or Twin, help us strike balance and harmony in the many twins in our lives like our faith and doubts, joys and sadness, victory and defeats, glory and sorrows, as well as life and death, rejoicing and mournings.

Oh God… help us in this time that is so Dickensenian in every sense!

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times; 
it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness; 
it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity;
 it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness;
 it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair;
 we have everything before us, we have nothing before us;
we are all going direct to Heaven, 
we are all going direct the other way—
(adapted from "A Tale of Two Cities"
by Charles Dickens)

Help us learn the lessons of this pandemic and make us turn back to you in Jesus Christ your Son, who is our Lord and our God as we pray with conviction, “Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in you!” Amen.

More blessings, more trials in Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday within the Octave of Easter, 09 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 4:1-12  <*(((><  +  ><)))*>  John 21:1-14
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

I could easily identify with your words today, Lord Jesus, especially with the flow of the story of the healing of the crippled man through Peter and John: from the Upper Room to the Beautiful Gate to Solomon’s Portico to their being thrown to prison; from the proclamation of the Good News of salvation to the healing of the crippled man and now their persecution and harassment.

After the crippled man had been cured, 
while Peter and John were still speaking to the people, 
the priests, the captain of the temple guard, 
and the Sadducees confronted them, 
disturbed that they were teaching the people 
and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.  
They laid hands on Peter and John 
and put them in custody until the next day, 
since it was already evening.  
(Acts 4:1-3)

So many times, Lord, we resent and avoid sufferings in life like persecution without realizing that it is through these trials that we make it to Easter like you when you passed over from your Passion and Death to Resurrection.

There are also times, Lord, when we feel so down, feeling lost and disappointed that we try going back to our old ways like Peter and his companions that Sunday morning when they decided to go fishing again after you have risen.

Like them, we feel we can be on our own that when failures come, we fail to recognize you only to realize later that without you, we can do nothing.

When it was already dawn, 
Jesus was standing on the shore; 
but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.  
Jesus said to them, 
"Children, have you caught anything to eat?"  
They answered him, "No."  
So he said to them, "Cast the net 
over the right side of the boat and you will find something."  
So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in 
because of the number of fish.  
So the disciple whom Jesus loved 
said to Peter, "It is the Lord."  
(John 21:4-7)

Thank very much, dear Jesus for bearing with us when we feel afraid of your mission, when we doubt if it is really you who is with us, directing us, guiding us.

Send us your Holy Spirit to enlighten our minds and our hearts to be firm in our faith in you, to trust you that when trials come our way, your abundant blessings are also there pouring into us to weather every storm in life. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7 News, Batanes, 2018.

Looking at Easter, seeing Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday within the Octave of Easter, 07 April 2021
Acts of the Apostles 3:1-10  <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Luke 24:13-35
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias in Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.
When the crippled man saw Peter and John 
about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  
But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, 
and said, "Look at us."  He paid attention to them, 
expecting to receive something from them.  
Peter said, "I have neither silver nor gold, 
but what I do have I give you:  
in the name of 
Jesus Christ the Nazorean, 
rise and walk."  
Then Peter took him by the right hand 
and raised him up, and immediately 
his feet and ankles grew strong.  
(Acts 3:3-7)

Praise and glory to you, our Risen Lord Jesus Christ, in sharing with us your victory and glory over sin and death, sickness and powerlessness. In joining us in our humanity in all of its aspects except sin, you have made us share in your divinity at Easter.

Like Peter and John at the Beautiful Gate that afternoon, fill us with your presence and power, love and mercy to uplift and empower our brothers and sisters afflicted with sickness and other burdens that drag them down, unable to rise again to experience life anew.

Give us the courage to tell people to look at us and find you like that crippled man you have healed through Peter and John.

Moreover, let us look at your face, look for what will unite us than divide us, look at your light than at the world’s darkness and shadows so we may look for Easter especially in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Remove the pessimism and cynicism growing among us in this worsening pandemic.

Ignite the flames of faith, hope and love within us so our eyes may be opened to see you again walking with us in this journey.

Cleanse us of our biases and prejudices, as well as of our expectations and other personal beliefs so we may see you most especially when we are treading the wrong path to our Emmaus of sunset and defeat.

That very day, the first day of the week, 
two of Jesus' disciples were going to a village 
seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, 
and they were conversing about all the things that had occurred.  
And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, 
Jesus himself drew near and walked with them 
but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.  
(Luke 24:13-16)

O dear Jesus, may we look at Easter on the face of everyone you send us and at every situation we find ourselves into so we may lead and guide others to you.

May we see and recognize you most of all in the darkness enveloping us this time of crisis so that eventually, we may come together in the breaking of bread and sharing of our very selves to others blinded by the calamities that have fallen upon us. Amen.

“Road to Emmaus I” painting by Daniel Bonnel, 2011 from mwerickson.com.

Ang buhay ay Kuwaresma

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-23 ng Pebrero 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Lungsod ng Jericho, Mayo 2019.
"Noong panahong iyon,
si Hesus ay agad pinapunta 
ng Espiritu sa ilang.
Nanatili siya roon ng apatnapung araw,
tinutukso ni Satanas.
Maiilap na hayop ang naroon 
nguni't si Hesus ay pinaglingkuran 
ng mga anghel" (Marcos 1:12-13).
Kay sarap namnamin tagpong ito
ng panunukso ng diyablo kay Kristo
dahil ganito rin ang buhay natin:
isang paulit-ulit na Kuwaresma
doon sa ilang ng kaguluhan at kasamaan
 sakit at mga pagsubok
sabay-sabay dumarating
kung kailan tayo nagpapakabuti
hindi lmang demonyo umaaligid
pati maiilap na hayop nagbabadya ng panganib
kaya mga problema hindi maubos
ni matapos, wala nang ibang ibig
kungdi makahulagpos
sa maraming tanikala at lubid
sa atin ay gumagapos.
Ngunit kung ating matatalos
pinagdaanan ni Hesus ating Manunubos
doon sa ilang Kanya nang tinapos
kapangyarihan ni Satanas
nang ituro Niya sa atin landas
 ng katatagan nang tayo mismo
ay Kanyang sinamahan sa ilang,
 pinaglingkuran ng mga anghel
upang mapagtagumpayanan
 kasalanan at kasamaan;
ating pagmasdan at pagnilayan
kapag tayo nasa kahirapan at kagipitan
maging kadiliman sa buhay,
saka dumarating si Hesus
hatid mabuting balita ng kaligtasan.
Hindi inalis ng Diyos
 ilang sa ating buhay
bagkus tayo ay kanyang sinamahan
sa paglalakbay, ibinigay kanyang Anak
upang sa atin umagapay, gumabay
pabalik sa kanyang tahanan
at kaharian sa langit
na dito pa man sa lupa
 ay atin nang matitikman, masusulyapan
sa Kuwaresma na ating pinaghahandaan
Pasko ng Pagkabuhay
na ating hinihintay
upang magbigay saysay at kulay
sa nananamlay nating buhay
kaya kay Hesus ating ialay!
Pagkatapos dakpin si Juan,
si Hesus ay nagtungo sa Galilea
at ipinangaral ang Mabuting Balita:
"Dumating na ang takdang panahon,
at malapit na ang paghahari ng Diyos!
Pagsisihan ninyo at talikdan
ang inyong mga kasalanan
at maniwala kayo sa Mabuting Balitang ito" (Marcos 1:14-15).
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Egypt, 2019.

God’s encompassing love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
40 Shades of Lent, First Sunday, Year B, 21 February 2021
Genesis 9:8-15   +   1Peter 3:18-22   +   Mark 1:12-15
Photo by author, ancient fortress of Masada in Israel, 2017.

Lent may be the most sparse in outward signs and decorations like flowers in all liturgical seasons but it is the most dense in meaning and imageries. Although it is often seen as a drab with its motif of penitential violet and subdued music when both Gloria and Alleluia are omitted, Lent sparkles with profundity and depth leading to joy deep within if we truly dwell into its main message of God’s encompassing love for us.

Take our gospel this First Sunday of Lent this year taken from Mark. It is the shortest compared with Matthew and Luke who both give us details, but, Mark’s brevity is so precise and thought-provoking, too!

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020, Infanta, Quezon.

Life is a daily Lent.

Of all the seasons in our liturgical calendar, Lent is my favorite because for me, it captures best the reality of life that is at the same time so beautiful but in some aspects ugly, nice but painful. There is always that contrasts of light and darkness that indeed, life is Lent, a daily Exodus filled with trials and difficulties that lead to joy and fulfillment in God.

See how Mark shows this so well in his brief narration that begins after the scene of the baptism of Jesus by John at Jordan. Immediately after that, Mark tells us without fanfare, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”

Is it not this is how life really is?!

At once after praying, after celebrating the Mass that is when you get into a debate with your wife or husband, son or daughter or siblings. Sometimes it happens while you are still in the church you get into arguments about parking. Right after you have resolved to be a better person and turn away from sins and its occasions, that is when your friends would come and ask you to join their “gimmicks” or that is when your “ex” would come or text you, entice you to go out again.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2020.

The desert is the image of that place of so many battles in life, where we cried in pain, where we were rejected, where we were hurt. Our life is like the desert, so hot and humid at day, so cold and freezing at night. Worse of all, the desert is our life because that is where we fight Satan who always deceives us with his many temptations that eventually lead us to wrong decisions, hurting not only us but those dearest to us, dividing our families, separating us from one another that in the end, we feel trapped in a terrible mess.

But, it is not that all bad because Jesus joins us in our battles and struggles in this life, in this desert that we find ourselves in a similar situation, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

Yes, life is difficult but it is in those situations we find its meaning and beauty. Though there are so many trials and sufferings, God never leaves our side, sending us angels like family and friends, even strangers who come and stay with us in life, believing in us, helping us, and most of all, loving us — right in the desert.

Photo by author, an oasis in the Dead Sea area of Israel, 2017.

Like an oasis where life springs abundantly, Jesus joins us in our many struggles against Satan by giving us the strength and courage to remain faithful to God, to experience fulfillment and salvation by giving us little pockets of Easter in the midst of our daily lent.

See that “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. Amid the bad news of John’s arrest, Jesus began his ministry and mission of love and mercy for us all, It was in the middle of such disturbing situation that Jesus came boldly proclaiming, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The same is true with us today as we enter the first full year of the pandemic that had altered our way of life so drastically, causing us so much pains in the many losses we have suffered in life and properties, God comes closest to us in Jesus especially in the Mass (https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/23/from-fishermen-to-fishers-of-men/)!

Most of all, as we shall see in this Season of Lent, even in the midst of sins and evil, that is when God comes closest to us to experience him and his saving grace.

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison who had been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah… This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.

1Peter 3:18-21
From Google.

Baptism as the key to Lent.

The key to understanding the Season of Lent is to see it in the light of the Sacrament of Baptism. Originally as a preparation to the mother of all feasts in the Church we call Easter, Lent was the period when candidates (catechumens) for baptism were prepared. That explains why the Easter Vigil we celebrate is too long because it was only during that time when people were baptized especially when the Church came under persecution.

In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean of our sins, we are cleansed and purified to get by in this life in the desert as beloved children of God.

He knows so well our human situation, our living in the wilderness that Jesus had to leave Paradise for a while to be with us here on earth, going through all our human experiences except sin so we may return to the Father’s home in heaven. Remember how we mentioned Lent as a journey back into the Father’s home: Ash Wednesday is the porch and every Sunday is a room we enter until we reach the Father’s inner room on Easter to be one with him in Jesus.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

In the first reading we have heard the story when God made a covenant with Noah and his children after the great flood which prefigured Baptism that cleansed the world of all the sins and evil. God had felt sad in creating the world when people turned away from him living in sins that he decided to destroy everything by sending a great flood. However, he found Noah as the only one along with his family still living uprightly. So, God asked Noah to build an ark where they stayed during the flood along with the different animals representative of every species. In effect, Noah prefigured the new Adam in Christ who came to be the new beginning of the human race, clean and without sin. After the flood, God sealed a covenant with Noah with the rainbow as its sign.

God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”

Genesis 9:12-15

As I was telling you at the start, Lent is so rich in meanings. When you look on the Crucifix and find those arms of Jesus outstretched when he died on Good Friday, that is the new rainbow of his covenant with us we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Remember when you look at Jesus Christ crucified, he is the rainbow promised to Noah by God that he would never destroy all mortal beings again.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

During the first Sunday of the COVID-19 lockdown that fell on the Fourth Sunday of Lent that was also my 55th birthday last year, we decided to carry around my previous parish the Blessed Sacrament so that the people may at least adore God after churches were ordered closed and public Masses suspended.

On the last leg of our route, it began to rain but I told our driver to go ahead with our “libot” until suddenly, as we turned to a long stretch of road in the middle of rice fields, there appeared over the horizon a rainbow! The sight made me cry as I felt God assuring me on my birthday that we can pull through this pandemic, that he is with us and would protect us, keep us safe.

And he kept his promise. Our parish had the lowest incidence of COVID-19 in the town of Santa Maria. From then on every Sunday afternoon, we would borrow the F-150 truck of our neighbor and I would carry the Blessed Sacrament around our parish, blessing the people who knelt at the side of the road. Eventually, it led us to innovations like “walk-thru” and “drive-thru” Holy Communion when I would announce the distribution of Holy Communion after our online Masses in front of our Parish Church and in some designated areas along the highway.

It was the most memorable Lent I ever had in my life when everything felt so real like Jesus in the desert being tempted. Yes, life is like in the desert where the devil and wild beasts attack us.

Have faith, be firm, and take courage in Jesus Christ for we are all covered and protected in his power and might, love and mercy. He is the Father’s best sign of his all-encompassing love for us sinners. Amen.

A blessed week to you!

Photo by author, 2019.

Email me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Embracing our pains

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, 03 February 2021
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr
Hebrews 12:4-7, 11-15     <*(((><<   +++   >><)))*>     Mark 6:1-6
Photo by author, sacristy table, December 2020.

O God our Father, thank you for enlightening us today about the sufferings we are going through especially at this time of the pandemic. Forgive us for those times we have doubted you and your love for us when we go through many sufferings, forgetting that these are a part of our lives you have allowed to happen so we may grow and mature.

Forgive us when at the slightest sign of pain and sufferings, we balk at taking the path of the Cross of Jesus Christ, choosing to commit sin than being faithful to you.

Help us realize that when we suffer, the more you are nearer to us truly as a Father who lets his children go through trials and hardships to make him better and stronger in the future.

Endure your trials as “discipline”; God treats you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? At the time, all discipline seems a cause not for joy but for pain, yet later it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it. So strengthen your drooping hands and your weak knees. Make straight paths for your feet, that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed.

Hebrews 12:7, 11-13

We pray, O Lord, for those going through so much sufferings today especially those undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, and physical therapy; those who have lost loved ones, who have lost their jobs.

Most specially, we pray for those suffering from rejection like Jesus when he came home to his native place and people took offense at him after hearing him spoke at the synagogue and healed so many sick people in other places.

It is one of the most painful sufferings anyone can go through, of being rejected by family and relatives, co-workers and colleagues, friends and neighbors.

Like St. Blaise, may we bear all pains and sufferings in life so we may strengthen the weak among us and offer healing to those who are sick and afflicted.

Most of all, like St. Blaise, as we accept the pains and sufferings coming our way, may we strive hard to never be the source of pains and sufferings to others. Amen.

Persevering in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Third Week in Ordinary Time, 29 January 2021
Hebrews 10:32-39   +++  >><)))*> + <*(((><<  +++   Mark 4:26-34
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Batanes 2018.

Our loving Father in heaven, thank you very much for another weekend, for another day of rest approaching, for the grace of making it this far despite the many difficulties we have gone through: the chemotherapy and dialysis, surgery or physical therapy; death of a loved one, including a beloved pet for some; losing a job, giving up a business, calling it quits for a dream or endeavor.

So many trials, some we have hurdled, some we have overcome, some we have lost.

But here we are, Lord God, though wounded and bruised but still alive, still dreaming, still hoping, still fighting. All persevering in Jesus Christ our Eternal Priest and Master.

Your words today, O Lord, are so comforting for many of us. Help us to never give up, to persevere despite our sins and failures. Be patient with us, sweet Jesus. Most of all, let us be patient too in waiting for you, in your coming, in your comfort, in your solace, in bearing fruits. Help us realize that the more we are enlightened in you, the more we are purified, the more we are tested.

Remember the days past when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a great contest of suffering. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised. We are not among those who draw back and perish, but among those who have faith and will possess life.

Hebrews 10:32, 36, 39

Like the farmer who sows seeds in his farm, may we confidently wait, never giving up until they sprout into new plants, have blades, have flowers and bear fruits.

Like the mustard seed, may we persevere to find deep within our hearts your gift of faith that someday, we shall grow and be fruitful. Amen.

Photo by author, flower of a mustard seed at Ein-Karen, Israel, 2017.

From fishermen to fishers of men

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-B, 24 January 2021
Jonah 3:1-5, 10  >><)))*>  1 Corinthians 7:29-31  >><)))*>  Mark 1:14-20
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The sea evokes mixed feelings of both joy and fear at the same time. It symbolizes life itself that may be nice and lovely but difficult and dangerous too. For many people, the sea is the sign of abundant life, a source of livelihood while for some, a reminder of death and misery.

Such is the mystery of life too that at the start of the ministry of Jesus Christ, we find Mark locating its setting by the sea as we embark fully into the Ordinary Time of the liturgy.

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen.

Mark 1:14-16

Mark wrote the first gospel account that became the framework for Matthew and Luke in writing their own versions. He was in a hurry in writing his gospel because he felt the urgency in making known the good news of Jesus Christ; thus, his gospel is also the shortest, doing away with so many other details without losing the essentials.

This we find in his brief presentation today of the beginning of Christ’s ministry set by the Sea of Galilee.


Our sea of discontent.

First thing we notice is the very nature of the coming of Jesus Christ that happens when we are in rough waters, perhaps even with a violent storm at the middle of the sea called life: After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Photo by author, sunrise at the Sea (Lake) of Galilee, 2017.

The setting was not totally good. John had been arrested. People must have been disappointed. But, that is always the cue in God’s coming called “kairos” or fullness of time, the day of judgment.

It is when we are going through difficult situations in life when we must examine ourselves too, of the need to set aside our own plans and agenda to let go and let God.

Every here and now is the time of fulfillment, a time of God’s coming to us.

Do we have the room, the space in us to welcome him to bring us into fulfillment? Hence, the need to empty ourselves, to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, the gospel himself.

Secondly, it is when we are sailing through rough seas when we also experience within that feeling of discontentment, of emptiness when there seems to be something missing in our lives even if everything is going fine like with our career or business, relationships, or family where nobody is sick or maybe the kids have all grown up and now on their own.

There comes a time in our lives when our problem is not having any problems at all — when we are no longer contented with being happy and satisfied but longing for fulfillment.

Rejoice and be glad when feeling this way! Emptiness leads to fullness as discontentment in life is always a sign of spiritual growth if we heed the calls of Jesus when desolation is a prelude to consolation.

Like in the story of creation, out of chaos comes order, exactly the experience of the first four disciples of Jesus.

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1:16-20
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Carigara, 2019.

When we are sailing through rough seas in life, that is when we have to trust God more so he can do and move in our lives to achieve the great plans he had created us for. “Be still and confess that I am God!” (Ps. 46:10), so the psalmist tells us.

Money and material things were not a problem for Simon and company. They must be well to-do as they have their own fishing boats at the time, even with men hired to work for them. Opening their hearts to listen to Jesus, they must have felt deep inside them that finally, they have found direction in life, something they have been searching for a long time.

Did they understand the meaning of “fishers of men”? We have no way of knowing it but Mark tells us how upon listening to Jesus, Simon and Andrew left everything behind and followed the Lord! Imagine the great fortune they have left behind.

Even Zebedee, the father of James and John, did not complain nor run after them to at least ask them to stay behind so they would help him run their family business because he too must have been praying for his sons to grow up and mature! Recall how the mother of James and John requested Jesus the favor to have them seated beside him when reigning in his kingdom they thought to be like the kings of their time living in a palace. Or, their attitude in asking Jesus to burn down a Samaritan village that refused them passage. These instances indicate how the brothers James and John may have been like today’s typical happy-go-lucky rich kids of their time but searching for meaning in life amid the many troubles and misadventures in life.

Jesus comes to us in a similar manner, in the ordinariness and problems and struggles of our lives like when Simon and Andrew, James, and John were busy working near the Sea of Galilee. The Lord speaks to them about what they were doing as fishermen to express to them his plans to make them fishers of men.


We do not find God;
it is God who finds us.

Every day, Jesus Christ is passing by, calling us, inviting us to repent and believe in his gospel, challenging us to face our responsibilities and most of all, asking us for our commitment. He never imposes but would always patiently wait for us.

We all search for meaning in life; for some, it may come early in life while for others, it might come later. But surely, our search for meaning, for God always come for sure because we were created that way by God.

In my personal experience, I have realized that we do not really find God; it is God who actually finds us! Moreover, nobody escapes God as attested by so many saints and even ordinary people we have known who have experienced conversion.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, December 2020.

One beautiful story of God coming to us, searching for us, and saving us from storms at the middle of the sea of life is that of Jonah and the city of Nineveh in the first reading. Jonah himself tried to escape God when his ship encountered a severe storm in the middle of the sea that he was thrown out to be swallowed by a whale. Of course, it is symbolic but it tells us in a nutshell the urgency of proclaiming God’s message of conversion, of not escaping God. This we find when Jonah was surprised at how a pagan nation like Niniveh listened to his preaching that they were spared of God’s wrath and punishment.

Jonah and Niniveh both give us beautiful lessons in resolutely turning back to God and his ways without wasting any instant as well as God’s immense love and concern for everyone, offering his mercy and forgiveness no matter how serious our sins are.

The characters of Jonah and of the inhabitants of Niniveh may be exaggerated but they are very true even among us in our own days! Recently we have seen how things have gone worst in this life in almost every aspect especially since last year with the coming of COVID-19 pandemic.

That is why St. Paul’s call in the second reading is so timely: “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. For the world in its present form is passing away” (1Cor.7:29,31).

When St. Paul wrote the Corinthians telling them to act as not having wives or weep as not weeping means we have to detach ourselves from all that perish like material things as well as jobs and careers, and even this life we have. We have to focus more on things that last who is ultimately God in Jesus Christ.

Last week, I was so saddened with the news of the closing of the Makati Shangri-la Hotel next month. One of our parishioners is a young man working there as a chef since 2004. He is a very good man, always dropping by the parish after work, never missing a Sunday with his father who died last summer. When COVID-19 started, he would always attend our online Mass wherever he may be.

I texted him the night the news came out of the closure of their hotel next month. Beside is a screenshot of our chat that turned my sorrow into joy upon realizing Carlo’s deep faith in God.

That night, I thanked God in my final prayer, for letting Jesus passed by my room while chatting with Carlo, in taking care of Carlo.

Yesterday after Mass I talked to him again and he was already very upbeat, looking forward to celebrating the Mass with us more often while looking for a new job.

Let us pray this Sunday for everyone going through many hardships these days so they may remain open in their hearts, listening to Jesus who is passing by, calling them to be his fishers of men in this troubled seas. Amen.

A blessed week ahead of you!