Avoiding factions

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time, 01 September 2022
1 Corinthians 3:18-23     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 5:1-11
Photo by author, February 2020.
"To the Lord belongs the earth and all that fills it."
-Responsorial Psalm for today
How often do we forget
or disregard this truth,
God our loving Father
that prevents us from
maturing in our spirituality
and relationship with you 
and one another as we follow
the wisdom of the world
that puts premiums on wealth
and power, fame and success
that create factions 
and divisions among us.
Forgive us when what we pursue
is often the ways of the world 
which is dominance over others, 
of having and possessing, 
of being served than of serving:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain. So let no one boast about human beings, for everything belongs to you.

1 Corinthians 3:19-21
Teach us to be fools for you, 
Jesus Christ, in whom everything
was created, things visible and
invisible (Col. 1:16) yet,
had to borrow a boat from Simon;
teach us to be fools like Simon and
company who listened and obeyed
Jesus, a carpenter, to cast their
nets into the deep;
many times, O Lord, we are
so divided within ourselves,
there are many factions inside
and outside of us that we get
separated from you our unity
and whole.  Amen.

Praying to remember, to never forget

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Nineteenth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 12 August 2022
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:3-12
Forget-me-nots photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Now, more than ever, 
I am convinced dear God
that we are indeed "beings of forgetfulness";
we easily forget, and sadly, we enjoy,
we choose and we "love" so much 
forgetting the past, 
forgetting people,
forgetting our roots, 
and worst, forgetting you
our loving Father.
How striking are your words
to the Prophet Ezekiel today,
"making known to Jerusalem
her abominations", of how as a 
nation like a newborn child left 
in the dirt with her umbilical cord
still uncut, wrapped in her blood
and all until you O God took her, 
bathed and dressed her with
finest clothes, fed with good food,
bestowed with your dignity 
that nations loved her (Ezekiel 16:3-14) 
only to forget you, O God... 
just like us today.

But you were captivated by your own beauty; you used your renown to make yourself a harlot, and you lavished your harlotry on every passer-by, whose own you became. Yet I will remember the covenant I made with you when you were a girl, and I will set up an everlasting covenant with you, that you may remember and be covered with confusion, and that you may be utterly silenced for shame when I pardon you for all you have done, says the Lord God.

Ezekiel 16:15, 60, 63
Let us remember you
Lord always;
teach us to make you a 
"member", a "part"
 of each present moment,
thus, "re" + "member"!
Let us enter into communion
in you, with you in Christ Jesus,
remembering, honoring
your divine plans since
the beginning like marriage;
forgive us for the "hardness
of our hearts" that we have relished
in forgetting and disregarding you
 and your plans in the past,
your blessings and plans for the future.
Let us stop "separating"
not only husbands and wives
but most especially our lives,
our selves from you, dear God,
 for you are our life, our being,
our origin and end.
Amen.

My sweet Lord!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after the Ascension of the Lord, 02 June 2022
Acts 22:30; 23:6-11     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     John 17:20-26
Photo by author, Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, 26 May 2022.
Forgive me, Jesus
but my initial reaction upon 
reading today's gospel was to
sing George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord"
because your words are so sweet indeed,
so comforting!

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed, saying: “I pray notn only for these, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they may also be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.

John 17:20, 24
Who are we,
who am I to be considered
as a gift to you, my Lord and my God?
Are we not the ones supposed to say 
and claim that you are, dear Jesus, 
the Father's gift to us and not the other
way around?
But, great thanks, sweet Lord Jesus
in taking us as the Father's gifts to you;
deepen in us your gift of faith in you
so we may work hard for the unity you
prayed for us, that we may truly enter 
into a communion with the Father
and one another in you and 
through you.
Do not allow us, dear Jesus
to be divided like the Pharisees and
Sadducees who both claimed to be
the followers of God but could not 
agree on anything about him except 
in being your enemies.
Let us be the visible signs
of your loving service and presence
in this world plagued with so much divisions
and violence as many among us continue
to refuse in seeing each one's giftedness  
in God our Father through you, dear Jesus.
Amen.
Photo by author, Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, 26 May 2022.

Diversity without the divisions

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fifth Week of Easter, 18 May 2022
Acts 15:1-6   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 15:1-8
Photo by author, February 2022.
Lord Jesus Christ,
you are the "true vine,
we are the branches...
Let us remain in you, 
just as you remain in us"
(John 15:4).
Today I pray for diversity
without the divisions that come
along this beautiful development
among us when we learn to accept
one another amid our many
differences in color and cultures,
traditions and roots.
May we focus more on what is
common among us than on 
what differentiates us from each other.
While it is true that we have to
keep some of our traditions from
the past, make us realize the need
to always assess its centrality to
our faith in you as well as its 
meaningfulness in our practices.
Keep us open and sincere in
keeping up with the signs of the
times without losing sight of
you, dear Jesus as the very
core of our being together
as one Body, one Church.
May we emulate the Apostles
and the presbyters to enter
into a dialogue in resolving
issues of differences among us
(cf. Acts 15:6), a very fine example
of your kind of peace being given 
to us that calls for sacrifices and
dying into one's self, exactly the
meaning of being pruned like
the vine in order to bear much
fruit in you (Jn.15:2-3).
May we always focus on you,
Lord Jesus, so that we may keep
our communion intact amid our 
diversities.  Amen.

Praying for unity

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2022
2 Samuel 5:1-7, 10   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Mark 3:22-30
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, 18 January 2022.
Bless us, dear God our Father,
with the gift of unity among us -
in the family, in the community,
in office and in school, even in the
church; how sad that with the recent
surge of COVID-19, we have forgotten
the Church's annual Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity that closes tomorrow.
Like your servant King David, 
let us always seek you, God our Father
to be the very center and foundation
of our lives; like David, may we find 
you among one another as our kin -
"our bone and our flesh" - and never 
forget to serve you like a shepherd
to his flock.
Unlike the scribes who had come from
Jerusalem to accuse Jesus of driving out
demons by the power of Beelzebul, let us
not be instruments of divisions and 
fragmentations but of peace and unity.
May we heed the teachings of St. Francis
de Sales that in whatever situations we happen 
to be, may we always aspire to the life of
perfection through the practice of devotion
in different ways proper to our calling.  Amen.

Called without exception

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of Sts. Jude and Simon, Apostles, 28 October 2021
Ephesians 2:19-22   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 6:12-16
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, the 12 Apostles at the facade of the Basilica Santa Maria de Montserrat Abbey in Barcelona, Spain, 2019.
Glory and praise to you,
O God our Father in sending
us your Son Jesus Christ who 
calls us to be his disciples and 
collaborators without exception, 
regardless of our backgrounds;
how wonderful it is to ponder on 
this feast of his two Apostles, 
St. Simon and St. Jude that it has 
always been people who interested
him, not social classes or labels!

Jesus went up the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles.

Luke 6:12-13
Simon who was called the Zealot 
came in tenth place according to
Luke's narration of their order of
calling followed by Judas the son
of James also known as Jude to
distinguish him from Judas Iscariot
the betrayer.  How wonderful it is 
to meditate on the call of Simon
the Zealot - if he was really a member
of those nationalist Jews against
Roman rule in Israel, that puts him
directly opposite, a world apart from
Matthew the tax collector who was
a collaborator of the Romans!
It is so amazing, Lord Jesus that you
have united these men together despite
their varied backgrounds and marked
differences!
And so, we pray, too,
that we may transcend our
differences with our other co-
workers in your vineyard, 
that despite our individualities,
we come into unity in your name,
in your mission, in your call,
Lord Jesus Christ.
Transform the "zeal" burning in us
in our previous preoccupations and
advocacies to become a "burning zeal"
for you and your gospel of salvation;
may we see more of you, Jesus, our Caller
than your call to unite us in the mission
you have entrusted us.  Amen.

We are One

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week XXVII-B in Ordinary Time, 03 October 2021
Genesis 2:18-24 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 2:9-11 ><]]]]'> Mark 10:2-16
Photo by Ms. Isa Avendaño-Umali at UP-Diliman via reddit.com.

Part of my fond memory of traveling to old Baguio will always be that long stretch of road in Tarlac with the colorful caballeros or “fire trees” abloom every summer, their vibrant shades of hot orange and tangerine serving like a canopy to a magical tunnel.

Making the scene lovelier were the branches and treetops arching over the road as if trying to “connect” with the other trees at the opposite side to remind us of nature’s design that we are all created one.

This is the gist of this Sunday’s readings from Genesis as cited by Jesus in the gospel.

The Lord God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a suitable partner for him.” So the Lord God cast a deep sleep on the man, and while he was asleep, he took out one of his ribs and closed up its place with a flesh. The Lord God built up into a woman the rib that he had taken from the man.

Genesis 1:25

Sometimes the Bible presents to us God acting so naive as if not knowing something at all like in this creation story when he said “it is not good for man to be alone”. Did he not know in his infinite knowledge and wisdom that man will only be happy with another human being like him “who is flesh of my flesh and bones of my bones”?

Of course, God knows everything but he wants us to realize ourselves – firsthand, that we can never be complete without another person, a fellow human being. There are times we learn our lessons best through our own experiences, the more painful and difficult, the better! Like this pandemic that has made us realize the value of persons, of family and friends over things like money and gadgets or any material possession.

Note that the creation account could have ended very well in man’s “discovery” of the woman but the author continued on with an explanation “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, and the two of them become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) to show not only the reality of marriage as a creation by God but also to remind us it is a part of our nature to reach out to the other person to enter into a communion. The “I-Thou” relationship put forth by philosopher Martin Buber has always been part of human nature until sin came and hardened the human heart, misleading us often by impulses of carnal and selfish instincts towards others.

The Pharisees approached Jesus and asked, “Is it lawful for a husband to divorce his wife?” They were testing him. He said to them in reply, “What did Moses command you?” They replied, “Moses permitted him to write a bill of divorce and dismiss her.” But Jesus told them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation… Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Mark 10:2-6, 9
Wedding of my former student Lery with Micah in January 2020, Malolos City.

God made all things good and beautiful

Jesus and his disciples were still in Capernaum when some Pharisees approached him to test him about their legal debates on the issue of divorce. And though he was fully aware of their evil plans against him, Jesus answered their question so well without going down to their level of discussions based on petty quarrels and differences with each other.

See how Jesus was clearly focused to his mission by asserting to everyone that he had come to reveal the will of the Father, that God created everything good and beautiful with man and woman as the crowning glory of his creation that he had to cite to them the Book of Genesis. There was no need for him to involve into the legal debates of his time about divorce that unfortunately continues to this day.

For Jesus, divorce is clearly a result of man’s sins, of human weakness due to the “hardness of your hearts” which Moses tried to remedy.

And now that he has come as our Christ and Savior, Jesus assures everyone of his grace and help in overcoming our weaknesses and sins especially in upholding the purity of marriage and the Creator’s intention when he declared, “Therefore what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mk.10:9).

In bringing back to God as the starting point of the man and woman relationship, Jesus elevated marriage to a higher status than ever, making it a “sacrament” or a sign of his saving presence among us.


In the process, Jesus reminded his disciples and us today
 of the nature of human relationships as reflection of God's beauty and holiness.  
Every human relationship is always a gift from God, a grace and a blessing 
that must be nurtured with love and care.  
More than the unity of husband and wife, 
Jesus reminds us in today's gospel of our unity as humanity, 
as children of the Father who loves us so much.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

But the beauty of Jesus Christ’s lesson on marriage continued as they went “in the house” in Capernaum, when his disciples asked him to explain to them what he had told the Pharisees.

In the process, Jesus reminded his disciples and us of the nature of human relationships as reflection of God’s beauty and holiness. Every human relationship is always a gift from God, a grace and a blessing that must be nurtured with love and care. More than the unity of husband and wife, Jesus reminds us in today’s gospel of our unity as humanity, as children of the Father who loves us so much.

How sad when we destroy, disfigure or alter this image of God in us and in our relationships that harm human life and nature that have led to endless cycles of disorder and imbalance like wars and conflicts in various forms as nations and peoples compete for supremacy.

This is the reason why Jesus reiterates today his central message of becoming like children to enter into the kingdom of God.

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

Mark 10:13-16

It was a fitting way to cap his lessons that day about marriage and unity of men and women with creation. Becoming “indignant” with the disciples who have “rebuked” their parents in bringing them to Jesus, he stressed anew the nature of the kingdom of God being open to those who are small and weak, those with the attitude like that of children who trust, depend and rely on the powers of those above them most especially God.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

It is deeply sad when couples separate or divorce, hurting the children most in the process. And indeed, it is the most tragic of all when priests and bishops abuse children when they are tasked by Jesus himself to care for the children as we have heard on many occasions in the gospel.

But, God has never stopped calling men and women to the sacred vocations of married life and priesthood even if he perfectly knows our weaknesses, including hardness of our hearts sometimes, or most of the time.

As the author of the Letter to the Hebrews had reflected, the more we must strive to be one in Jesus Christ who calls us all “brothers” and “sisters” having been consecrated to God as our origin and final end.

Last Sunday, Jesus told us “sky’s the limit in doing good” regardless of our religious affiliations “For whoever is not against us is for us” (Mk.9:40); sin is the only obstacle we must avoid, striving hard to stop its occasions when he metaphorically said it is better to enter heaven with just one hand or foot or eye than lose the body to the fires of hell.

This Sunday, Jesus is inviting us back to the very root of our relationships – God, the Supreme Good of all. Let us pray for the softening of our hearts to be more loving and forgiving, kind and understanding. Like at the beginning when he created everything, God trusts us and believes in us for we are all good like him, that his grand design of communion is very possible in Christ Jesus. Amen. Have a blessed week!

Praying our religions bring us together, not apart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Martyrs, 20 September 2021
Ezra 1:1-6   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 8:16-18
Photo from en.wikipedia.org.
On this blessed Monday
as we celebrate dear God our Father
the Memorial of the first Korean priest,
St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his companion
martyrs led by St. Paul Chong Hasang,
we pray you may bless like King Cyrus of 
ancient Persia more world leaders 
and most especially heads of many 
religions to be instruments of unity
instead of divisions.

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!'”

Ezra 1:1-3
How sad, O God
that throughout history
up to the present time,
men have ironically waged
wars on other peoples and nations
primarily in the name of their God,
instead of bringing love and understanding,
they have caused so much hatred
and sufferings; the only truth proven
that in war, nobody wins except
more coffins are nailed with
beloved children inside as victims
and casualties. 

Jesus said to the crowd, “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.”

Luke 8:16
Dear Jesus,
enlighten our minds
and our hearts with your light
in the Holy Spirit
to illumine the world with
more love and acceptance
of each other and their faith;
please, like King Cyrus of ancient Persia,
may we all realize that our religion
should bring us closer to each other
and not bring us apart.
Amen.

What God is asking from us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XIX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 13 August 2021
Joshua 24:1-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 19:3-12
Photo by author, modern chapel at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem, the Holy Land, 2019.
I know, dear God our Father,
you have no need of our words 
nor works in exchange for your 
abounding love and grace given us 
in Christ Jesus; and there lies 
your goodness and holiness when 
all you ask of us is our fidelity
to your covenant, that we remain true 
to you by dealing with love and justice
to one another which is all for our own good too.

“I gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities which you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.”

Joshua 24:13
You have given us everything, O God:
the earth and everything on it that we have
wasted and destroyed; worst of all, you
have given us family and friends, every person
 and people to love and cherish, respect and
be kind with but whom we have always
hurt with our words and actions when we
see only our very selves, failing to see
others as brothers and sisters in you
as Father from the the very beginning.

“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator made them male and female, and said, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate.”

Matthew 19:4-6
Forgive us, merciful Father
for the "hardness of our hearts" (Mt.19:8),
in our building walls among us instead
of bridges to bring us close together
as your children reconciled in Jesus Christ;
help us to find the common grounds that
make us all the same, not different;
make us find and accept our vocation
in life so we may fulfill your calling
by serving you through one another
with love and respect, kindness and mercy
especially in this time of the pandemic.
Amen.

When extraordinary is ordinary

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 01 July 2021
Genesis 22:1-19   <*(((><  +  ><)))*>   Matthew 9:1-8
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, M.D., March 2021.
When I look at your beautiful creation
O God our loving Father
I cannot but stop and wonder
be at awe with all the beauty 
and mystery so extraordinary
yet ordinary in your majesty.
Today we have two stories 
so extraordinary but with you
simply ordinary:  when you asked
Abraham to offer to you Isaac, 
off he went faithfully
even blindly:

As the two walked on together,
Isaac spoke to his father Abraham, 
"Father!" he said.
"Yes, son," he replied.
Isaac continued, "Here are the fire
and the wood, but where is the sheep
for the burnt offering?"
"Son," Abraham answered,
"God himself will provide the sheep 
for the burnt offering?"
Then the two continued going forward.
(Genesis 22:7-8)
The faith of Abraham in you, O God,
is so great, so extraordinary;
and so was the faith of Isaac
to his father that it never occurred 
to him he would be the one to be
sacrificed either.
Both Abraham and Isaac showed
extraordinary faith you ordinarily ask from us.
Give us the grace, O God,
to imbibe this ordinariness
of having extraordinary faith in you,
like the harmony and beauty
found ordinarily in nature;
may we realize that any sickness
is a "dis-ease", our lack of harmony
with you and with others due to sin.
Let us not "harbor evil thoughts"
like those scribes present at
Christ's healing of a paralytic
to whom he declared
"your sins are forgiven" (Mt.9:2)
to show that wherever there is
dis-ease, there is a lack of harmony
wanting your mercy and unity.
Amen.