Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-23 ng Pebrero 2021
"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
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
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
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).
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
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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 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.”
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.
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.
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.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Sunday of Advent, Cycle B, 29 November 2020
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19; 64:2-7 + 1 Corinthians 1:3-9 + Mark 13:33-37
A blessed happy new year to everyone as we begin today the new liturgical year of our Church calendar with the first Sunday of Advent. From the Latin word adventus for “coming”, Advent is a time meant to prepare us spiritually for Christmas.
And with all the problems and sufferings we have been going through this 2020 with the pandemic still around us in this joyous season of Christ’s coming, we hope that we make this Advent Season more serious so we may have a more meaningful Christmas, prepared for 2021 (see our recent blog, https://lordmychef.com/2020/11/23/surely-there-will-be-christmas-2020/)!
Like Lent, though in a less penitential mode, Advent is a time to pray and reflect on our lives and if possible, go to confessions to cleanse our hearts so Jesus may come and rest there like when he was born on a manger in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago.
Our first reading today beautifully sets the mood for Advent 2020 in the midst of COVID-19 with a prayer so true with each one of us:
You, Lord, are our father, our redeemer you are named forever. Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage. Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, with the mountains quaking before you…
Isaiah 63:16-17, 19
Advent is for new beginnings, for coming again.
Year 2020 is without doubt very difficult for everyone but it teaches us in the most unique way the essentials in life like God, family, friends, true self, and things like kindness, respect, thoughtfulness, simplicity, presence, and other niceties we have taken for granted for so long. It is about time that we recover these specially in Advent which is the season of new beginnings when we start anew in life.
And where do we start?
Right where we are, here in our darkness in the pandemic and within our hearts, far from God by beginning to pray anew to him so he may finally come and return to us!
The words by Prophet Isaiah in the first reading are so perfect at this time as if these were written only recently, expressing our true sentiments within: that we are sorry for having drifted far from Jesus and from others all these years, so focused with things and gadgets than with God and persons.
Our hearts have been too hard, distant from God and each other, so cold and so dark that we have become so insensitive, callous and numb or even without any conscience at all that in the midst of a pandemic, there are some who can still utter lies and malice with their hands also tainted with blood and corruption.
It is so sickening but, the more we pray and listen to our inner selves, we also find how this darkness has slowly encroached on us too, happening at different levels right in our own family circles, in our community, and even in our church maybe!
On bended knees, we humbly admit our need for God to intervene now – to rend the heavens – and bring us back to our senses and unto him, so we may finally find rays of hope, even a glimmer of light in this darkness we are into.
As we pray for the Lord’s advent or coming, we need to strive to be vigilant on our part as we patiently await him right in our hearts in this night of the pandemic and chaos going on.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”
Mark 13:33, 35-37
Though we live in darkness, we belong to Christ who is light himself!
Everywhere in the world, except Down Under perhaps, the Season of Advent always falls in that time of the year when the nights are longer and most of all, darkest as in winter experienced in the western hemisphere, including Europe.
In fact, Christmas Eve is the darkest night of the year, the date Christ was born to bring light and be the light of the world.
See how Jesus used the night as the time of the return of the “lord of the house” (who is himself, too) when everything is dark and difficult.
For the young generation today, it may mean nothing at all as they have grown accustomed to our 24/7 world where work continues into the night like during the day with offices and stores opened and public transportation readily available.
During the time of Jesus and even 30 years ago, we rarely travelled nor even went out past six in the evening because of the many dangers at night like criminal elements lurking for their preys and simply the difficult situation of seeing clearly the roads ahead. In the bible, darkness is the realm of evil and sin like Jesus being betrayed by Judas after their last supper while in Genesis, we find how in darkness was nothing but chaos until God created everything.
And there lies the good news of the night, of darkness, and of Advent: Jesus Christ as the light himself of the world comes to save us at night! It was before dawn when Jesus walked the waters of the Sea of Galilee to save his apostles while being tossed by giant waves in their small boat. It was also in the darkness of the night when Jesus rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.
Yes, we all live in the night when darkness envelops us, even our hearts and very lives with so many problems and crises happening but we never lose hope, we never lose sight of that glimmer of light for we do not belong to the night but to Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
Advent is patient waiting for the Lord’s coming.
Night is the time when it is best to believe in the light. As one poet had said, “The darkest nights produce the brightest stars.” But, another unknown poet had also said that “Only the brave who dare to walk the darkest of nights shall see the brightness of the stars above.”
Our lives may be in darkness or even dark itself these days but we celebrate the Sunday Eucharist today even if the the Lord’s coming may be delayed because we know deep in our hearts that “God is faithful, and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1Cor.1:9).
One thing we need to pray for this season are patience and vigilance in awaiting his return during this darkness.
Patience is a virtue becoming so rare these days when everything is rushed as we live in a world of “instants” like instant gratification and, yes! — even instant vaccine against COVID-19 without us realizing its deep implications of calls for changes in the way of living and doing things in the world as individuals and as nations. From the Latin “patior” which is to bear all pains, patience is also believing that something better will happen in every sufferings we patiently endure.
Likewise, vigilance is more than being awake and prepared for any eventuality but an active waiting for someone or something by taking risks due also to a firm belief something better will come out of trying situations.
Patience and vigilance go together for both are fruits of real and hard prayer, expressions of deep faith in God.
On this first Sunday of Advent with clouds still turning dark with rains that have never stopped drenching us these past weeks, we continue to celebrate the Eucharist thanking God for our long-term faith in Christ’s Second Coming.
When we look back to those past nine months of darkness in this pandemic worsened by recent calamities and a clueless government since January, we actually gone far than we have expected.
Why? Because we have never lost hope from the little glimmers of lights God has sent us since the lockdown in March! We have survived and slowly, many of us are finding life’s deeper meanings and realities in God our Father.
Notice how in every patient waiting for Christ’s Second Coming in the midst of the many darkness in life, the Lord actually comes nearer to us, albeit slowly and unnoticeably?
That’s the beauty of Advent, new beginnings always happening for those patiently waiting in the Lord.
Let us be on guard during these long nights of darkness when temptations are strongest and so appealing. Like at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus wants us to “watch” with him by praying to the Father so we may remain faithful and focused on him alone to soon find life in the dead of the night. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Red Wednesday, 25 November 2020
Revelation 15:1-4 >><)))*> +++ <*(((><< Luke 21:12-19
Once again, dear Jesus, we pray in the most special way this Red Wednesday for your persecuted Church including those severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic like the medical frontliners, the survivors and their families, and the poor who have sank deeper into poverty due to the prolonged lockdowns we have had.
We pray that we may find your good news behind every persecution we suffer and go through as a community of your believers and disciples because where there are sufferings, there are hearts and souls willing to comfort, willing to share, willing to sacrifice.
When there are sufferings, there is the color RED that means LOVE because that is when we have your Cross, Jesus Christ, and therefore share in your own destiny of glory!
It is in every shade of red like the blood poured out by Christ and the martyrs after him that the Father’s “righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev.15:4), that is, when we experience more of God’s protection and salvation in the face of grave dangers and even death.
Grant us the grace, Lord Jesus, to persevere in your words and ways so we may secure our lives in you. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXXII-A in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2020
Wisdom 6:12-16 ><)))*> 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 >><)))*> Matthew 25:1-13
Beginning this Sunday until the Solemnity of Christ the King three weeks from now, we hear from the gospel Jesus speaking of his Second Coming at the end of time to render judgement to everyone.
It is during this time as we come to close the liturgical year and begin the new one with the Advent Season four weeks before Christmas when the Church reminds us in our Sunday Masses the true meaning of Christ’s Second Coming that have disturbed so many people for 2000 years.
Throughout history, it has spawned many doomsday and apocalyptic scenarios among peoples everywhere, particularly religious fanatics and cult followers with disastrous aftermaths like bloodbaths and murders despite their being anchored in a religious belief in God.
Lately there is a growing trend among some people of preparing for the final end of the world without any belief in God but more based on “science” and pop cultures but still with some degree of violence too.
And between these two extremes of awaiting the end of time with and without God, we find a majority who do not seem to care at all!
Everything comes to an end in order to begin anew.
Last Sunday in our reflection on All Saints Day we have mentioned the tension of the here and not yet, of Jesus being here now and still coming again at the end of time we call parousia which we proclaim in every Mass after the consecration.
This tension was a big deal during the time of the early Church with many believers including the Apostles believing they would witness the return of Jesus in their lifetime; but, when many of them started to die without the Second Coming happening, they began to question and reflect on the nature of parousia. They wondered what will happen with those who have died already and those left behind still alive when Christ comes again?
We do not want you to be unaware, brothers and sisters, about those who have fallen asleep, so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep… we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not precede those who have fallen asleep… will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, console one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-14
From St. Paul’s reflections developed what we call escathology, that branch of theology dealing with the end of time and everything related with it like general and particular judgements, death and resurrection, parousia or Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.
It was St. Paul who insisted the centrality of Christ’s resurrection upon which is also hinged the resurrection of the dead and of his parousia (1Cor.15:14) which we call as mystery of our faith. For him, Christ’s resurrection is the beginning of the resurrection of the dead, the beginning of the end time; therefore, the end is something we shall not fear but in fact be excited with because it is the final victory of God over sin and death. Yes, Christ had definitively won over death at the cross but it is on his Second Coming when death and sin are final vanished to give way to new heaven and new earth.
Everything will come to an end not to simply terminate all but in order to bring forth new beginnings! And the key is authentic living in every here and now.
Live in the present, not future; focus on life, not on dates.
It is sad when many among us Catholics specially those who celebrate Mass every Sunday acclaiming “Christ will come again” are the ones so afraid of end time, always asking for the blessing of their candles in the belief that these would save them from days of darkness.
Wrong! What will truly save us on judgement day is our firm faith in Jesus Christ, not blessed candles. Most of all, what will truly save us on judgement day is to live daily as authentic Christians witnessing the gospel values of Jesus Christ our Savior and Judge.
In today’s parable of the ten virgins awaiting the arrival of the groom, the Lord wants to instill among us the need to focus on the present moment of our lives not on any particular time or date because nobody knows when he would come like the groom in a wedding.
Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish and five were wise. The foolish ones, when taking their lamps, brought no oil with them, but the wise brought flasks of oil with their lamps.
We are all the virgins awaiting the coming of the groom for the wedding. We all came from God and we are designed to return to him in the end for eternal life. Here I find the late Stephen Covey so real in teaching us to always begin with the end in sight which is heaven. In one of his writings, he said “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey; we are spiritual beings on a human journey.”
In 2012, we were shocked when we heard news how he fell from a bicycle in an apparent accident and a few days later, he died. In an instant I have felt how this layman who strongly advocated the infusion of values into business and management is after all a saint, perhaps now in heaven.
His seven habits of highly successful people are all anchored in meaningful, authentic living in the present. That is being wise, of bringing extra oil of charity and kindness and goodness in life while actively waiting the coming of the groom, the coming of our death and end. Habit is something that is good we always do; its opposite is vice. (Stop saying bad habits.)
Life is keeping our lamps burning even if it produces little light than be extinguished and be plunged to total darkness. Nobody is perfect; we all have our lapses in life that is always in darkness. Like those virgins in the parable, wise and foolish alike, we feel drowsy and fall asleep.
Since the bridegroom was long delayed, they all became drowsy and fell asleep.
Therefore, all the more we need to be wise, not foolish. Being wise is always seeking and following the will of God who is Wisdom himself.
In the first reading, we are told how Wisdom as the personification of God himself can always be had by anyone sincerely searching for him.
Resplendent and unfading is wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known in anticipation of their desire; whoever watches for her at dawn shall not be disappointed, for he shall find her sitting by his gate.
To seek and obtain wisdom is to have pure or clean hearts that try to seek what is good, free of carnal desires and worldly allurements. Again, the need to have even the faintest light than be in total darkness.
So often, many things in our lives are decisively won – or lost – in a spur of the moment, in single crucial moments when everything comes to the fore. Woe not to those caught asleep but not ready or prepared, ill-equipped for the demand of the moment.
At midnight, there was a cry, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish ones said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise ones replied, ‘No, for there may be not enough for us and you. /go instead to the merchants and buy some for yourselves.’ While they went off to buy it, the bridegroom came and those who were ready went into the wedding feast with him. Then the door was locked.
See how in the parable where everything was similar and the same: ten virgins with lamps becoming drowsy and falling asleep in the night waiting for the groom. Everything changes at midnight with the announcement of the arrival of the groom where the wise virgins were clearly distinguished from the foolish. The wise had extra oil and came into the wedding with the groom, leaving behind the foolish who had to buy for oil in the dead of the night only to return with doors locked, leaving them outside.
This is life in a nutshell: being ready when opportunity strikes is not based on luck but hard work.
And that is the saddest and difficult part we always take for granted: life is often decided on short, instant moments that in a snap of a finger can decide our rising or downfall.
This pandemic is an eye opener for everyone that caught so many of us unprepared.
Any extra oil kept in this time of the corona has proven so wise for some who have adjusted so well in the situation, coping and even managing so well amid the crisis.
What is so disappointing, even appalling are the foolish who chose to wallow in their follies, whining and blaming everyone for the troubles and mess without admitting their own shortcomings.
Let us heed the Lord’s call to “stay awake, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Mt.25;13) by living authentically as his disciples in every here and now. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 31 October 2020
Philippians 1:18-26 >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*> Luke 14:1, 7-11
It is the end of another month, of another week as we brace ourselves for a super typhoon directly hitting our region. And yes, God our loving Father, we are scared, we are worried, we feel helpless most specially for our little brothers and sisters, those who have always been suffering in life like the poor, the elderly, the sick, the marginalized.
But if there is one thing we have learned from COVID-19 these past eight months is to wholly entrust everything to you, O God, to completely surrender and rely on you alone.
Let us grow deeper in faith, more fervent in hope and be unceasing in our charity and love for others so that the Gospel of Jesus your Son may always be proclaimed.
Help us imitate St. Paul, though imprisoned and almost certain of facing death, no trace of helplessness is found in him; on the contrary, he was so full of power coming from his deep, personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.
Enable us in the power of the Holy Spirit to humbly submit ourselves to you, dear God, confident that you always have a specific place and seat, a role to play for us — if we can learn to first stand up for you like in today’s parable by Jesus.
May the coming typhoon be an opportunity for us to let our faith be expressed in words and in deeds. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 29 October 2020
Ephesians 6:10-20 >><)))*> + + + >><)))*> Luke 13:31-35
There is no doubt, O God, we are in a war with evil as St. Paul tells us in today’s first reading; but, as I prayed more, I dwelled on that one word he had said — “struggle”.
For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. Therefore, put on the armor of God, that you may be able to resist on the evil day and, having done everything, to hold your ground.
Almighty and loving Father in heaven, today I pray for each one of us struggling in life — struggling to survive, struggling to be afloat amid the economic crisis, struggling to keep our family and friends together, struggling against an addiction, struggling against sins, struggling in almost everything or anything, maybe even struggling to believe and have faith in you, dear God.
To struggle is an effort to get out of something not meant to be like an imprisonment. To struggle is to exert efforts to resist attacks or be free from any constraints. Like when a fish is out in the sand, it struggles to get onto water which is its natural habitat.
There are many conditions in our lives today we are into but not really meant to be for us like the effects of evil and sin sometimes perpetrated by some among us. We are sure you never wanted us to be put into this situation. And that is why, you have sent us your Son Jesus to help us in our struggles.
Sometimes, life for others has simply been entirely a struggle since childhood.
Have mercy on us, please help us, Lord, in our struggles. Be our armor of truth and righteousness, our shield of faith, our helmet of salvation, and our sword of the Holy Spirit to slay the evil and sins enslaving us.
Thank you, dear Jesus, for standing by our side in our many struggles despite efforts of some like the Pharisees in the gospel today who told you to leave Jerusalem because “Herod wanted to kill you” (Lk.13:31).
Make us realize that in the midst of life’s many struggles, “you are our Rock, O Lord, who trains our hands for battle, our fingers for war” (Ps.144:1) and someday, as you have promised, we shall win in all our struggles to experience your glory and majesty, love and mercy. Amen.