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.

The blaming game

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 02 August 2021
Numbers 11:4-15  <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 14:13-21
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.
On this first working day
of August 2021, I pray to
you our loving Father
to watch over the many 
others today who feel
the same way as Moses
in the wilderness
being blamed by family
members and relatives,
by friends and others
for all their troubles
and mess in life.
When Moses heard the people,
family after family, crying at the
entrance of their tents, he was grieved.
"Why do you treat your servant
so badly?"  Moses asked the Lord.
"Why are you so displeased with me
that you burden me with all this people?
Was it I who conceived all this people?
Or was it I who gave them birth,
that you tell me to carry them 
at my bosom, like a foster father
carrying an infant, to the land you have 
promised under oath to their fathers?
I cannot carry all this people by myself, 
for they are too heavy for me."
(Number 11:10, 11-12, 14) 
It is so frustrating, Lord
every time there is a hardship or 
difficulty being encountered along the way
to every goal and aspiration, we have to resort
to the blaming game with the accusing finger 
pointing on somebody else except one's self
for all the woes and miseries, 
the chorus lines of wishful thinkings
and litanies of things missed most
that suddenly the higher ideals are
all forgotten for the sake of little comforts
regardless of dignity and freedom recovered.
Teach us, dear Father
to be persevering like your Son:
When Jesus heard of the death
of John the Baptist, withdrew in a boat
to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him
on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw
the vast crowd, his heart was moved with
pity for them, and he cured their sick.
He said to his disciples,
"There is no need for them to go away;
give them the food yourselves."
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments
left over - twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.
(Matthew 14:13-14, 16, 20-21)
Like Jesus our Lord,
open our eyes to see more, not less
of what we have despite the many
burdens we also carry.
Open our hearts to have more room
for those with more difficulties
and hardships going through in life.
Stretch our hands wider to embrace
those burdened and about to give up
on their dreams and aspirations in life.
When we feel so weighed down by
all the blame of everybody else,
may we see more the light of life in Christ
than the darkness of death and surrender
like Moses at the wilderness.

“Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka” by Basil Valdez (1980)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 11 July 2021
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima, GMA7-News, Batanes, 2018.

Life is always beautiful, even if not all days are bright and sunny. Despite the rains and darkness above us, life is still good because of God’s great love for us expressed through the people he sends us like family and friends, even strangers sometimes.

In today’s gospel, we heard Jesus sent the Twelve to cast out unclean spirits and to heal the sick and afflicted (https://lordmychef.com/2021/07/10/we-are-missionaries-of-christ/). It is the first task given by Jesus to every missionary he sends because wherever there are darkness and sickness, you also find evil and sin. By casting out evil and sins, preaching repentance, the world is restored to its original order of beauty and truth in God.

That is why we have chosen Mr. Ryan Cayabyab’s classic composition from 1980 Tuwing Umuulan at Kapiling Ka originally recorded by Mr. Basil Valdez that was covered by other artists until recently .

One of the most beautiful OPM (Original Pilipino Music) love song courtesy of Mr. Cayabyab also known as “El Maestro” for his being a musical and lyrical genius.

The song speaks so well about the nature of life that is sometimes caught in a storm with so much rains and darkness; but, the guy is not worried at all, even asking for more rains for as long as he is with his beloved one.

Pagmasdan ang ulan, unti-unting pumapatak
Sa mga halama't mga bulaklak
Pagmasdan ang dilim, unti-unting bumabalot
Sa buong paligid tuwing umuulan

Kasabay ng ulan, bumubuhos ang iyong ganda
Kasabay rin ng hanging kumakanta
Maaari bang huwag ka nang sa piling ko'y lumisan pa?
Hanggang ang hangi't ula'y tumila na

Buhos na ulan, aking mundo'y lunuring tuluyan
Tulad ng pag-agos mo, 'di mapipigil ang puso kong nagliliyab
Pag-ibig ko'y umaapaw, damdamin ko'y humihiyaw sa tuwa
Tuwing umuulan at kapiling ka

Today, the Lord is sending us as is missionaries in his name, in his power. We merely propose but do not impose through our life of witnessing to the saving power of Jesus Christ. May we bring light and life to those going through many rains and darkness these days so they may realize that despite the storms, life is always beautiful.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this song and music video except to share its beautiful message of life and love. Thanks.

From Youtube.

We are missionaries of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XV-B in Ordinary Time, 11 July 2021
Amos 7:12-15 ><}}}'> Ephesians 1:3-14 ><}}}'> Mark 6:7-13
Photo from Joint Task Force Sulu via Inquirer.net, 07 July 2021,

Everybody is saying 2020 is a very bad year that had extended its negative vibes into 2021 with the continuing string of disasters and bad news like the recent C-130 plane crash in Sulu where 50 soldiers were killed, mostly were young in the prime of their lives.

Not to mention are the persistent threats of new surge of COVID-19 that continues to mutate into deadlier and more transmissible variants despite the vaccine roll outs.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Julian Arguilla.

But, upon closer look and deeper reflections, we also realize what we are going through is not that totally bad. It is still a very beautiful world, so blessed by God with the people he sends us to bring hope and find meaning amid all the deaths and darkness around us.

In that recent C-130 plane crash is 30 year-old Capt. Dr. Nigel Emeterio who selflessly served our people as a medical frontliner of the Philippine Air Force fighting COVID-19 in far flung areas and as a flight surgeon of troops sent to fight terrorist rebels in Mindanao.

A graduate of the Our Lady of Fatima University’s College of Medicine Batch 2015 here in Valenzuela City, Capt. Dr. Nigel is most of all a faithful husband and loving father to his wife and kids left behind in a life so short but filled with loving service and dedication to others.

Earlier this year, another young woman in Quezon City – Ms. Patricia Non – inspired us to harness the vast powers we have in our hands to see one another as a brother and a sister by setting up a community pantry where the poor may get basic food according to their needs provided by others according to each one’s ability.

The movement soon caught the attention of more people in various parts of the country, even abroad, setting up their own community pantry with support coming in from the rich and poor alike, bringing out the spirit of Christ’s gospel in the most concrete manner.

And lastly, who was not touched by the infectious smiles and fighting spirit of America’s Got Talent contestant called Nightbirde when she courageously admitted to the world the multiple cancers she was afflicted with a 2% chance of survival?

We were all moved to tears when she sang her own composition to assure everyone that “I’m Ok”, that despite all her sufferings, she chooses to be happy due to her strong and deep faith in God?

There are still so many stories of men and women, young and old alike, being sent by God in Christ Jesus to remind us amid all the darkness hovering above us in this time that the world and life he created for us is truly beautiful because he created us meant to be filled with joy and fulfillment, not misery and sufferings.

Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over unclean spirits. He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick – no food, no sack, no money in their belts. They were, however, to wear sandals but not a second tunic.

Mark 6:7-9

Our first mission is to cast out unclean spirits

Photo by author, Jerusalem, 2017.

Life is always beautiful, true and good. Despite all the bad news we hear and see daily, overall we realize that it is always a beautiful world out there waiting to be discovered by us. Everyday God sends us in his Son Jesus Christ to proclaim this reality by fighting the evils that try to destroy life.

For the past Sundays, St. Mark has been presenting to us who is Jesus Christ, telling us the teachings he preached, the miracles he performed, and the setbacks he went through when he went home to Nazareth.

This time, we find Jesus sending his Apostles that include us in this modern time to continue his work and mission of proclaiming the good news of salvation amid the many demons or unclean spirits in our time found not only in dire situations but among evil men and women in their arrogant display of power going unpunished, escaping justice. It is a scenario we have seen throughout history, of natural and man-made disasters happening along with a dash of human inanities and follies in every period everywhere.

But life continues and gets better largely with the prophets sent by God sent to speak his words of justice and truth to bring back order and harmony in our world distorted and marred by evil and sin.

That was the first order of Jesus: authority over unclean spirits, over “demons” who destroy lives.

From the Greek word “daemon”, a demon is someone or anything that destroys life. It refers not only to evil persons but also situations like diseases, afflictions, addictions, economic imbalances, social injustice and systematic evils happening everywhere, even among church people.

Any form of evil and sin is always a lack of order and wholeness, a privation. Too often, evil to us is something interior that is difficult to remove or even diagnose. It has entangled its roots deep within us, creating confusions and doubts. Hence, we feel Jesus very emphatic in his commissioning of the Twelve: he “gave them authority over unclean spirits”.

It is the power of Jesus Christ borne out of our deep faith that leads to boldness and courage tempered with humility and simplicity that enables us to fight evil in this world. As that famous saying tells us, “the only thing needed for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing”.

Fighting evil and sin is not a personal crusade of anyone but a sharing in the power and destiny of our Lord Jesus Christ. The mission of the Twelve that is also our mission is a direct continuation of the mission of Jesus Christ who offered his life on the Cross for our salvation.

We are the first to be affected by Christ’s preaching and actions by being transformed in him. That is why he calls us to be detached from the world and its allurements to be one in him alone.

Like the prophet Amos in the first reading, it is always a call from God, a mission from God. We are mere instruments of the Lord for he is still the one who will effect changes and transformations.

Forget all those myths and illusions of being the savior of the world or “messianic complex” as if we are indispensable and much needed in the world. We might even be surprised that the world might be better off without us!

As missionaries of Christ like the Twelve and Amos in the first reading, we only propose but never impose our message of salvation with conviction. It is not our persuasive arguments and discourses that will cast out the unclean spirits but the Christ in us with our life of witnessing.

It is never easy and can be a thankless task prone to misinterpretations and criticisms. That is why next Sunday upon the return of the Twelve, Jesus will invite them to rest at the other side of the lake that clearly shows us the very essence of being a missionary of Christ – oneness in him.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, June 2021.

Restoring all things in Christ

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation 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…

Ephesians 1:3-5

For many people today, the world is very chaotic, lacking harmony and rhythm with all the bad things happening right in their personal lives and in their homes and places of work. While the pandemic drags on, there is a strong temptation to be negative and even lost hope, of being cynical.

As missionaries of Christ, we are called to imitate the courage and conviction of St. Paul to faithfully reveal God’s plan of peace and harmony in him through Jesus.

Photo by author, 2019.

In his opening benediction that is so beautifully structured and expressed, St. Paul is inviting us to restore all things in Jesus Christ.

Like St. Paul, we missionaries of Christ must be the first to have that conviction that life is beautiful, that God has great plans for each of us despite all the sins and evil going on.

Imagine St. Paul writing the Ephesians while in prison, awaiting trial and certain death that did not deter him in being so upbeat and joyful with life?!

God knows very well the trials and difficulties we are all going through. Others have gone worst than us but never lose that sparkle of hope in Christ, giving their very lives for us to have a better world today.

Let us cast away all doubts and indifference and start living faithfully in Christ to realize the Father’s vision for us today. I pray that God hear your prayers to be filled with all the blessings you need to be a wtiness of his love and mercy. Amen.

Surprising Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Cycle B, 04 July 2021
Ezekiel 2:2-5 ><}}}'> 2Corinthians 12:7-10 ><}}}'> Mark6:1-6
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2015.

There are only two instances in the gospels that say Jesus was surprised or amazed: first is in his hometown of Nazareth as we have heard today when “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk.6:6) and the second is in Capernaum when a Roman centurion asked him to heal his sick servant. When Jesus obliged to come with him to heal the servant, the Roman officer declared, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed. When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt.8:8, 10).

What surprises Jesus most is our faith in him. Or, its lack like the people of Nazareth.

Last Sunday, he dared us to examine our faith in him when he brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus. On their way, Jairus was told his daughter had died, that there was no need to bother Jesus anymore; that’s when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36). Reaching his home, there was commotion on the dead child but later, everybody was “utterly astounded”(Mk.5:42) after Jesus brought her back to life.

Today, St. Mark deepens our reflection on the need to have faith in Jesus by telling us a surprisingly sad episode in the Lord’s life and ministry of being rejected right in his native Nazareth:

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. so he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:2-3, 5-6
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

The need for faith

For the past three weeks, St. Mark has slowly introduced to us that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah or Savior through his teachings and miracles like healing the sick, pacifying a violent storm at sea in the darkness of the night, and bringing back to life the dead child of Jairus.

However, it is not enough to “know” who Jesus is.

Knowing Jesus – or anyone – will not matter at all unless we believe in him and enter into a relationship with him lest we end up like his folks who “knew” him as the carpenter and son of Mary, wondering where he got all his wisdom and power.

And worst, “they took offense at him”. As we would say in Filipino, “pinersonal nila si Jesus.”

But, that is what faith is – something very personal because it is a relationship. No relationship can mature and grow unless there is faith. The deeper and stronger the faith, the most wonderful is the relationship because despite all the troubles and sufferings that may come, the ties remain because of faith.

That is why it St. Mark is telling us today the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, of how even the Son of God experienced failures and rejections, calling us for a deeper and firmer faith in him who alone is our Lord and Savior. Aside from sickness and deaths in our lives, there are many other pains and heartaches, disappointments and failures and losses in our lives that if we do not have faith, we can never make it through with Jesus.

Yes, Jesus is with us in this journey of life in the many seas to cross while in darkness amid violent storms; but, we have to believe in him first before he can make his moves in our favor like in Nazareth where he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” due to their lack of faith in him.

Photo by author, altar in my room at the Fatima National Shrine, Valenzuela City, February 2021.

Surprising Jesus with our faith

Too often in our lives, we have boxed God as being stiff and stern, a disciplinarian watching us for our sins and mistakes. Wrong! God sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we may experience his tender mercy and love, his personal relationship with each of us.

Unlike most of us, Jesus is a touch person, so sensitively human, not numb, always feeling us in our gestures and looks and words like that Roman centurion at Capernaum, that sick woman in the crowd last Sunday, the widow of Nain and the sisters Mary and Martha. They all moved and touched Jesus with their grief and sufferings, and most especially with their faith and joy and confidence in him.

Most beautiful in these stories of Jesus being surprised and moved by humans are the more surprising kindness and blessings he bestowed on them – like in our own experiences! Notice that when we were so surprised by God with his blessings, that is when we have also surprised him with our faith.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we continue to listen and speak his words of justice and truth. In this age of faith in a mass mediated-culture, we find the voice of God drowned in the cacophony of many sounds competing for everyone’s attention where the ones that prevail are those appealing to the senses that are both easy and pleasurable. Through media manipulations, what was unacceptable was first made to be tolerable until it has become acceptable like promiscuity and “safe-sex”, divorce and same sex marriage, birth controls and abortions. Any discussion of God and religion, ethics and morality and values are dismissed as limiting and narrow-mindedness or worst, as being old-fashioned and conservative. In modern man’s effort to be “fair” and “all-encompassing”, the human person has been reduced to technicalities and legalese, replacing life with lifestyles.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Ezekiel 2:4-5

Jesus shows us today in his unhappy homecoming to Nazareth that even if people refuse to listen, we continue with our prophetic role of proclaiming his good news of salvation “in season, out of season”.

Even if nobody listens, even if we do not win converts or followers, we are prophets of God like Ezekiel, the voice of God, of his justice and truth amid a rebellious and wayward generation. Like John the Baptist, we are the voice in the wilderness preparing the coming of the Lord by speaking the truth, calling people to repentance and conversion.

Though God speaks in silence, our being silent in the midst of evil worsens the sinful situation as we shut doors among humanity leaving no room at all for Jesus to come and work his wonders among us. Be the voice of Jesus, be his opening, and be ready for great surprises happening soon!


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we remain standing with him at his Cross, bearing all pains and wounds with him. In this age of affluence and convenience characterized with everything instant in a click of a button, modern life has become sedentary to our own detriment. As we prefer to be seated more than standing, we have become so passive, avoiding every form of pain and suffering that make pain relievers as the most prescribed and widely used medication these days.

See how we quarrel over our places of “seat” everywhere – at home and school, office and community and parish, public and private transport – as they connote powers without realizing that what matters most in life is where we stand because that is when we are defined as a person for our faith and values in life, when we most surprise Jesus as he surprises us most with his strength like what St. Paul had realized:

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Great things begin to happen in us, in our lives when we are out standing for Jesus, with Jesus because that is when we are truly one in him as he passed over our miseries and sins to rise again with him and in him in his Resurrection.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we are filled with joy and love in him despite everything. To love and be joyful like Jesus calls for a deep faith in him, to be kind and merciful even when others are rude and unforgiving. Notice how these days it takes a lot of guts to be good. And we are so amazed with them!

On the other hand, notice when we hear news of a band of people who are inconsiderate, corrupt, unkind, selfish, and proud: are you not surprised they are filled with anger and hate and negativities?

During the persecution of the early Church, Christians were easily spotted and rounded because they were amazingly loving and caring with the marginalized like the poor, the sick, the widows, the old, and the orphans. Pagans were most surprised that the more they persecuted the Christians, the more they grew in number! It is one of history’s most surprising facts but, that is how God moves, so unusual in the most surprising ways.


Have you been surprised by Jesus lately?

Try surprising him with your great faith in him and you will be surprised greatly by him!

Have a blessed Sunday! Amen.

Photo by author, flowers at the Pater Noster Church outside Jerusalem in Israel, 2019.

“Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 27 June 2021
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, M.D. at Athens, Greece 2016.

Chaka Khan’s Through the Fire is one of the songs that have intrigued me for some time not because I love it. In fact, it is one of my least liked song of all time. I have never liked it – until now – though I have always admired Ms. Khan as a musician, especially as a percussionist (I Feel for You is my favorite).

My interest for this song began about 12 years ago when I asked help from a millennial to make me a playlist in my new laptop wherein she included more than one – maybe three copies of Through the Fire.

I felt the young lady was making fun of me but I never had the chance to ask her why she was so fond of the song.

Years later as I interacted with young people in schools and parishes, I found that so many of them who belonged to a different generation in fact love this song very much! It was only this week when I finally found the answer: it is a most unique romantic song about a true love being found by a woman who was so willing to put it to test, hence, through the fire.

Love is like faith that has to be tested, that must be passed “through the fire” to make it more firm and deeply rooted in Christ. And like love, faith dares us to let go of everything for it to truly grow and mature.

Through the fire
To the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you
I'd gladly risk it all
Through the fire
Through whatever, come what may
For a chance at loving you
I'd take it all the way
Right down to the wire
Even through the fire

Composed by David Foster in 1984, he claimed in an interview that Through the Fire is the only song he had written with just one particular singer in his mind, Ms. Chaka Khan. And it proved to be so good as it earned numerous awards aside from staying on top of the charts for several weeks.

The melody is very comely, so perfect with Ms. Khan’s sweet voice that is unusually formal and laid-back in this particular piece.

In our gospel today where Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of the synagogue official name Jairus, we are challenged to examine our faith in God especially in these trying times of sickness and death due to the pandemic (https://lordmychef.com/2021/06/26/arise-be-whole-again-in-christ/).

How far are we willing to go, to risk all through the fire in following Jesus in the midst of the many trials and sufferings COVID-19 had brought to us not only with our health and well-being but also with our means of livelihood.

May we keep and deepen our faith in Christ as we go through the fire for it is only in him can we arise and be whole again in the face of many sickness and deaths of this time.

Have a blessed week ahead!

*We have no intentions of infringing the copyrights of this beautiful music except to share its pure joy and listening pleasures.

From YouTube.

Arise, be whole again in Christ!

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B, 27 June 2021
Wisdom 1:13-15; 2:23-24 <+> 2 Corinthians 8:7, 9, 13-15 <+> Mark 5:21-24, 35-43
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Galilee, the Holy Land, 2017.

Once again, we find Jesus crossing the Lake of Galilee this week with a crowd following him to listen to his teachings and experience his healing. What a beautiful image of life in Jesus, of constantly crossing the sea, sometimes in the darkness of the night amid storms.

It was something like what we had gone through last Thursday on the Solemnity of the Nativity of John the Baptist when as a nation we crossed history with the inauguration of the new Archbishop of Manila marked with the passing of former President Noynoy Aquino.

We hope and pray that like our gospel this Sunday, our recent crossing will lead us to new awakenings and realizations leading to national healing and yes, a resurrection, a rising from the dead like that young daughter of Jairus brought back to life by Jesus.

When they arrived at the house of the synagogue official, he caught sight of a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. So he went in and said to them, “Why this commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but asleep.” And they ridiculed him. Then he put them all out. He took along the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and entered the room where the child was. He took the child by the hand and said to her, Talitha koum, which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise!” The girl, a child of twelve, arose immediately and walked around. At that they were utterly astounded.

Mark 5:38-42
Photo by author with friends at ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, 2017.

Examining our faith in Jesus

Notice, my dear reader, how similar is our story of Jesus raising to life the dead daughter of Jairus with that of the calming of the storm while crossing the lake last Sunday. In both instances, we find Mark “exaggerating” some details as if Jesus were somewhat oblivious to what was going on around him.

But again, Mark is not entertaining us with his stories narrating the powers and miracles by Jesus for he is telling us something deeper and very important with those surprising details of his stories. Primary of which is the supremacy of Jesus as the Son of God over nature like the sea and death both symbolizing evil and sin.

Mark affirms this truth today in telling us how Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus, that Jesus is the Christ who had come launching a new world order where death and sin are overcome in him through his pasch.

Recall last Sunday how Mark ended his story with the disciples asking, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?” (Mk.4:41).

That question is finally answered by our story today that clearly shows Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God who is life himself when he brought back to life the dead little girl.

Unfortunately, like during the time of Mark until now, many still doubt the powers of Jesus. Then and now, there is still that crisis of faith among us expressed by people from the synagogue official’s house who arrived and said, “Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher any longer?”(Mk.5:35).

If you were in that crowd following Jesus, would you still go with him to enter the house? Would you heed his words like Jairus, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36)?

And while inside the house, knowing the little girl was already dead, would you join the rest in ridiculing Jesus who said, “The child is not dead but asleep” (Mk.5:39)?

These are the questions Mark is asking us today like the Christians of his time going through persecution and crisis in the early Church.

It is easy to “believe”, proclaiming with arms raised that Jesus is Lord, that Jesus is the Son of God but it is another thing to be truly convinced, to have faith in him when faced with the stark realities of life persistently attacked by sickness and death, of pains and sufferings that make us wonder why God could allow these to happen!

We have all felt our faith shaken when this pandemic struck us last year that took away those dearest to us so sudden, often without seeing them at all before they were cremated.

Like his story last Sunday, Mark’s narration of the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus is filled with many surprising details we find it so true with our own experiences of struggling to avoid or survive COVID-19, of having a sick child or spouse, of trying to make it to another day, of keeping our jobs to pay for food and rent and other needs of our family.

Do we really have that faith in Jesus, convinced that everything will be “okay” like Nightbirde who can brim with all smiles even if saddled with three kinds of cancer with a 2% chance of survival, claiming it is better than zero?

Today’s gospel is more than the revelation of who Jesus Christ is: the raising to life of the daughter of Jairus dares to invite us in examining our faith in God in the face of unrelenting attacks on life by sickness and death especially in this time of the pandemic.

Death and sickness are realities we face daily, that make us doubt God’s love and concern for us which the first reading clarifies with its declaration that

God did not make death, nor does he rejoice in the destruction of the living. For God formed man to be imperishable; the image of his own nature he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death entered the world, and they who belong to his company experience it.

Wisdom 1:13, 2:23-24
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2019.

Arising and being whole in Jesus

Jesus came not to remove sickness and death, pains and sufferings which did not come from God for God is love. He came to be one with us in sickness and death, in our pains and sufferings so that we may rise with him too in his resurrection and be whole again in him.

Notice the words Jesus used in every healing, “your faith has saved you” to show that healing is not just a cure of the disease but making the person whole again. The words health, healing, wholeness, and holiness are all interrelated if we examine their origins and implications. Hence, we see that whenever Jesus would heal, it is not only an eradication of an illness but restoring harmony and balance in the person – physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional aspects.

It is the same in raising the dead young man in Nain and his friend Lazarus: Jesus or the evangelists used the word “arise” as a foreshadowing of Easter when Jesus himself rose from the dead, an indication of his power over death.

All these people in the gospels Jesus had healed and brought back to life eventually died but the good news is that death and sickness are no longer dark and an ending in itself.

Jesus came to bring salvation to the world, a wholeness in life which disease and physical death can no longer control and hold. That is why we need a firm faith to believe in him in spite of the many sickness and deaths now around us. It is faith that will enable us to grasp the full meaning of this pandemic and other sufferings we are going through in life. It is our deep faith in God that will also enable us to explain and show to others especially our loved ones the true meaning of healings and resurrections performed by Jesus who gives us a share in his victory over sickness and death.

May we dwell on the beautiful exposition of St. Paul today about being poor like Christ “that though he was rich, for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2Cor. 8:9).

We can only be whole when we share whatever we have because that is when we allow Jesus to work in us, to be in us, to complete us. This happens when we wholeheartedly celebrate the Holy Eucharist where we become poor like Jesus, emptying ourselves of our sins, sharing with others our wealth through our contributions not only to the church collections but also to other charities where some of us share also time and talent aside from treasures.

The experience of the community pantry recently had taught us the value of St. Paul’s call for us to share and be poor like Christ when we were encouraged to take only what one needs and to give according to one’s ability – “kumuha ayon sa pangangailangan, magbigay ayon sa kakayahan”.

Yes, the realities of poverty and hunger remain with us but people are fed, sufferings are alleviated and most of all, the whole nation is united in believing again there is hope amidst the pandemic worsened by the systematic evil that has plagued us for so long.

Faith in God is deepened and strengthened when we become poor and weak like Jairus because that is only when we can arise and be whole again in Jesus Christ who is himself our Resurrection and Life. Amen.

A blessed new week to you and everyone!

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

Entering the narrow gate

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. John Fisher and Thomas More, Martyrs, 22 June 2021
Genesis 13:2, 5-18   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 7:6,12-14
Photo by author, the narrow door to the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, 2019.

It is now getting clearer, God our loving Father, why we have to see ourselves in the way you see us as beloved and blessed: our strong selfish inclinations make us think more of ourselves, of what would give us most benefits with the least efforts as much as possible that make us forget others.

Like Abram’s nephew Lot who “chose for himself the whole Jordan Plain” settling near the city of Sodom because the whole region was well watered and prosperous, not knowing its inhabitants were very wicked in their sins whom God would punish later (Gen.13:10-11).

Teach us to be like Abram who thought more of others than himself: So Abram said to Lot, “Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go the right; if you prefer the right, I will go to the left” (Gen.13:8-9).

Help us to follow your Son Jesus Christ’s teaching that we “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few” (Mt.7:13-14).

May we learn from the lessons of history how powerful men like King Henry VIII of England ended miserable in life when he chose the path of the wider gate that led to his destruction when he ordered in 1535 the beheading of Cardinal John Fisher and Chancellor Thomas More for their refusal to sign his Act of Succession paving the way for his divorce from Catherine of Aragon to marry Anne Boleyn. Five more divorces later, Henry VIII never had a male successor except Edward VI who ruled England very briefly.

Grant us the courage and wisdom of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More who chose the more difficult and painful “narrow gate” of martyrdom to serve you, God, first and above all.

Choosing the narrow gate is always the best because it is choosing Jesus Christ your Son who chose the way of the Cross for our salvation and eternal life.

We pray for those trying to make shortcuts in everything in life, avoiding the way of the Cross to gain more wealth and fame without any regard for the value of other persons. We pray for those who have been blinded by power and money who could no longer see one another as a brother and sister, failing to be just and fair in their relationships and dealings. Amen.