The other half of the sky

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 06 June 2022
Photo by author, Silang, Cavite, August 2020

While reflecting last night John’s gospel for today’s memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, the song “Woman” by another John – John Lennon – kept playing at the back of my mind as I prayed over the words of Jesus calling Mary her mother as “woman” (Jn.19:26).

It is the second time, and final one in the fourth gospel that Mary the mother of Jesus was at a scene with her Son; the other instance they were together in a scene in John’s gospel was at the wedding feast at Cana where Jesus did his first miracle by converting water into wine. In both events, John tells us Jesus addressed Mary as “woman” (Jn.2:4, 19:26).

In 1980, Lennon composed “Woman” as a tribute to his wife Yoko Ono. In that lovely song, we find two instances of how John, like the beloved disciple used the word “woman” very positively. First we hear Lennon quickly declaring right after the first few notes of the song, “For the other half of the sky” to refer to women; and secondly, by starting each verse of this song with the word “woman” which he never used in the chorus that is just “ooh-ooh, well-well”.

For the other half of the sky
Woman
I can hardly express
My mixed emotions at my thoughtlessness
After all, I’m forever in your debt
And woman
I will try to express
My inner feelings and thankfulness
For showing me the meaning of success
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Woman
I know you understand
The little child inside the man
Please remember, my life is in your hands
And woman
Hold me close to your heart
However distant, don’t keep us apart
After all, it is written in the stars
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Ooh-ooh, well-well
Doo, doo, doo, doo, doo
Woman
Please let me explain
I never meant to cause you sorrow or pain
So let me tell you again and again and again
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
I love you, yeah-yeah
Now and forever
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, February 2022.

How true were the confessions by Lennon, of our “thoughtlessness” and “childishness” in dealing with women, hurting them physically and emotionally without realizing how “indebted” we are to them in bringing us forth into this world, in nurturing us.

So true his words too that no matter how far we turn away from women, we cannot deny the fact we are always close with them, we long for them because we are meant for each other as “written in the stars”.

And most true which I like most is Lennon’s claim that women are “the other half of the sky”.

What a shame when we men think of the world as “us” and ours alone, as if the earth revolves around us, that we are not only the center of the universe but also the universe itself! No wonder we are always lost and at a loss in life.

Women as the other half of the sky tells us how we men and women complete the whole picture of reality, of how we need the feminine side and feminine touch to have a fuller grasp of life, its meaning, and its many mysteries.

This image of the woman as “the other half of the sky” I find so perfectly true with our Blessed Virgin Mary too, most especially when she stood at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ on Good Friday.

When John the beloved disciple chose to use the word “woman” for Mary as addressed by Jesus, it was the most wonderful effort to recognize the dignity and honor of women in the world especially at the very crucial moment of dying and separation of loved ones:

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:25-27

It is a scene happening daily in our lives as individuals and disciples of Christ, of how Mary addressed as “woman” signifying the Church as the Body of Christ to which we belong and we must care for always; and, as Christians, at how we disciples must obey Christ’s commandment to love one another by respecting and accepting every woman.

Photo by author, 2018.

Both man and woman were created in the image and likeness of God, with equal dignity though different in order to complement each other in coping with life’s many challenges and trials.

See how at creation God entrusted woman to man to love and care for her, to protect her which Jesus repeated to the beloved disciple before he died on the Cross. In the Hebrew language, the word for woman and wife is “ishsha” which is a play from the word for man which is “ish”. Woman came from man, woman is a part of man. Without her, he is not complete and neither shall she also be complete without man. That is why, all these talks about the battle of sexes are all insanity for we are all created to love and care for each other!

The bible tells us many instances of negative views about women along with children that they were not even counted in the feeding of five-thousand by Jesus in the wilderness. Women were never considered as reliable witnesses that is why Jesus himself corrected this by appearing first to Mary Magdalene in the gospels. Women were never seen as holy too that is why the story of Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary was a most unique scene in the whole bible of two women together so blessed by God.

As we resume the Ordinary Time in our Church calendar this Monday with a memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, let us be more conscious from now on of the dignity of women, of finding Jesus in them by making constant efforts to change the persistent wrong impressions and ideas about women since time immemorial. Whenever you look up the sky, think of those other half of you staring at the heavens, then thank God for the women he had sent you to experience his loving presence especially in these trying times. Amen.

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

In praise of women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, 06 June 2022
Genesis 3:9-15   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 19:25-27
Photo by author, 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father
for all the women of the world
as we resume Ordinary Time
in our Church calendar honoring
Mary, Mother of the Church.
How wonderful to recall how
all four evangelists narrated the 
presence of women at the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ:  what a 
most wondrous sight that continues 
to this day when behind every sufferings
we go through are the women who
often join and accompany us even
until death, giving us strength and 
courage, comfort and consolation.
But most wondrous, O God,
is the account of the beloved disciple
of Mary, the Mother of Jesus at the
foot of his Cross on Good Friday,
being addressed as "woman".

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:25-27
Only you, O God in your Son Jesus, 
can give that unique gift of womanhood
especially your Mother Mary;
you first called her "woman" at the
wedding feast at Cana and now here
at the Cross, when your hour had come.
What a beautiful image, dear Lord,
of Mary, of the woman in your work of
redemption so close and so near you
that is in direct contrast with the other woman
in Genesis, Eve, who turned away from you
in sin.
Bless us dear Jesus, 
to constantly repeat this beautiful
scene at the Cross, as an individual
and as a community of your disciples:
let us relive this scene in our lives
as Christians taking Mary your Mother
as well as the Church into our own homes
and most especially of respecting every
woman still ignored and taken for granted
in this time; let us remember always our
equal dignity with women as image and likeness
of God as we carry out your final instructions
of remaining one in you in love and mercy.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2019.

When God visits us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Zephaniah 3:14-18     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, 2021.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
in coming to visit us daily
in your Son Jesus Christ
our Lord!
Thank you for always believing
in us, for who are we worthy to be
visited by you and be given with 
importance?  And that is who we
are, beloved and blessed because
you chose to love us, to believe in
us, and trust us.
Keep us humble like Mary
in Jesus our Lord, that we are
your mere carriers, that whatever
greatness and attributes we have
are all a grace from you; keep us aware
of our nothingness before you.
Let us not be misled by the
ways of the world based on 
value systems of popularity,
personal excellence and superiority;
so many times it happens that
we are merely Christians in
a sleepwalking existence, 
thinking and believing we 
believe and follow you when actually,
we are just dreaming, 
we are just imagining
for we are so far from reality.
Wake us up, Jesus,
from our sleep,
wake us up to the 
realities of life that 
we need to work hard like
Mary walking from afar,
daring to sacrifice everything
so your coming and presence
in the world be felt especially
by those who badly need your 
care and healing, your love and mercy.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
for not believing in you
that you love us, that you
have a plan for us, something
beautiful if we would only believe
like Mary that your words will
be fulfilled.
May we always welcome your
coming, your daily visits to us
like Elizabeth, always open to
receive you and listen to your 
words, and to be blessed.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2021.

The Visitation: Waking up from our “sleepwalking Christian existence”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Romans 12:9-16   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:39-43

It always happens with us, too, when we experience great privilege and honor be given us by others, most especially by God when like Elizabeth, we have that sense of awe and wonder to ask “who am I” to be accorded with such great honor. 

Many times we find ourselves asking God, “why me, Lord?” when given a great blessing in life (and also when experiencing extreme suffering and difficulty).  We believe there is somebody better and smarter than us, one who is more capable than us that we always wonder if God really has a plan for us. 

It is good to maintain such a sense of humility before God and others like Elizabeth, but sometimes, it can happen that after seeing clearly our role in the plan of God, we back out or worst, we pretend to be doing our part.  This is what the Orthodox Christian theologian Olivier-Maurice Clement, a friend of St. John Paul II who warned about “sleepwalking existence” wherein we pretend to be real disciples of Christ when we are actually dreaming.

As we come near to the closing of the Easter season with the approaching midyear on this last day of May after our recent elections, this Feast of the Visitation is the time for us to wake up from our sleepwalking existence, to face the discomforting realities of being disciples of Jesus Christ.

During our diocesan celebration of the World Communication Sunday, one of the more than 300 young people who attended our recollection asked our guest speaker Fr. Ilde Dimaano of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communication how does he see our “failure in the Church in communicating the gospel with results of the recent elections?” I was so glad with Fr. Ilde’s answer when he clarified to the young people that we did not lost in the recent elections because we have all done so well in harnessing various forms of communications in spreading the gospel by educating the people. Without sounding partisan nor political, Fr. Ilde challenged our young parish communicators to review and study our communication efforts to find ways of getting better.

It is about time that we in the Church must accept that the recent elections show how we have disappointed the people again, of how we have been more aligned with the rich and powerful and our claims about “Church of the poor” are just poster signs than reality. 

Photo by author, Chapel of Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 2021.

We in the Church should never be surprised at all that we are maligned and misunderstood because that was how Christ was treated during His time.  It is time for us clergy to wake up from our sleepwalking existence and get real with our vocation of truly shepherding the Lord’s flock, of finally putting an end to our adventures and forays into partisan politics. Like Mary, we priests must first of all immerse ourselves in the Word, Jesus Christ, which Vatican II has long stipulated us to do. See how Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” because she believed in the words spoken to her would be fulfilled. Instead of continuing to stir into flame the frustrations and disappointments of the people, like Mary we priests must “go in haste to the hill country” to reach out to everyone and inspire them to find God’s plans for us in the next six years.

Whether in good times or in bad, God comes to us in Christ Jesus. Do we truly carry him like Mary or are we just sleepwalking?

This Feast of the Visitation is a good celebration for us to accept the real hard stuffs of Jesus Christ like witnessing to his love and mercy among the poor and the disadvantaged, of bringing him to those forgotten by their families and the society like Mary sang in her Magnificat.

And like Elizabeth, let us doubt no more that despite our nothingness, we are worthy before God, that he has plans for us in bringing Christ Jesus in this world even if our mission may look so different from others yet so closely related in establishing his kingdom here on earth.

May the calls of St. Paul in our first reading awaken us from our “sleepwalking Christian existence” to be like Mary and Elizabeth in nurturing the seeds of God’s kingdom here on earth by truly walking the dusty and difficult roads in this life. 

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.

Romans 12:9-12

These are the real hard stuff we need these days as we seem to be having some semblance of end of pandemic – it is time for us to visit like Mary the many Elizabeths who have been into “seclusion” during these past two years. So many feel so lost, trying to find directions at this time as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives wrecked by COVID-19.

God is visiting us daily because he loves us, he believes in us. Most of all, he comes to us in Jesus so that we can share him to more people to experience the Father’s love and mercy, kindness and blessings. Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Jesus Christ, our reality

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 13 May 2022, Feast of Our Lady of Fatima
Acts 13:26-33   ><))))*> + <*((((><   John 14:1-6
Photo from the Commission on Social Communications, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.
Your words today, O Lord Jesus Christ
are so timely, so perfectly meant for us
these days:  "Do not let your hearts be
troubled. You have faith in God; have 
faith also in me" (Jn.14:1).
Forgive us, dear Jesus,
in believing so much with ourselves,
forgetting you and God in the process;
help us accept the many realities
in life, help us to move on with life,
and most of all, stop from being 
bitter and being unkind with others;
make us realize we cannot have the
truth when we are apart from you.
It is so timely that on this 105th
anniversary of the first apparition 
of your Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary
in Fatima, Portugal that our gospel
is very much the same truth she had
revealed to the three children and 
to the world:  that you alone, Jesus is
the true reality in this life for you 
are "the way and the truth and the life,
that no one comes to the Father
except through you" (Jn.14:6).
It was at Fatima where your Mother
told us how your way is always 
accessible and leads to fulfillment, 
so unlike our many ways in this world
that change and disappear, sometimes
become obsolete.
It was at Fatima where your Mother
assured us too that there is no other
way nor a secret road in life except you,
dear Jesus.
It was at Fatima where Mary brought us
back to reality of you Lord Jesus that
no one comes to Father except through
you.
Help us dear Jesus,
through our Lady of Fatima,
to return to you again in 
the sacraments of Penance
and Eucharist, to trust in you again,
to follow your Person as the way,
the truth, and the life.  Amen.
Photo from the Commission on Social Communications, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Mary in our troubled time

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, 105th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2022
Acts 13:26-33   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   John 14:1-6
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

Our gospel this 13th of May is so timely for us in the Philippines when Jesus said to his disciples shortly before his arrest at the Last Supper, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me” (Jn.14:1).

It is the same message of the Blessed Virgin Mary when she first appeared to the three little children at Cova de Iria in Fatima, Portugal exactly 105 years ago today.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.”

John 14:1
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

In the past 200 years, notice how the two most significant apparitions by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes in France (1858) and at Fatima in Portugal (1917) were both calls for us to renew our faith in God through Jesus Christ, something we keep on forgetting and even disregarding in these modern times.

When the Blessed Mother appeared in Fatima, the First World War was still raging with the former Soviet Union spreading its venomous doctrines of atheism and communism. Today, though the USSR has long been gone and dismantled, its ideology still lives on in Russia which had recently invaded its neighbor Ukraine.

And here in our country, the mood since Monday evening when unofficial results of the elections started to come has been like a Good Friday with so many going through some forms of emotional stress and distress.

It is very sad and disheartening when people started saying of moving to other countries abroad, casting doubts on the elections results with all the insults and other moral aspersions against the winners and their supporters.

Where is our faith in God, in Jesus Christ?

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

When Mary appeared in Fatima in 1917, the world was in a great transition like our time with ever increasing discoveries and inventions in the field of science and technology with the new ideas and thoughts being put forth that were so materialistic, disregarding God, spirituality and morality.

Today we are reminded anew of the ever-relevant calls of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Fatima to go back to her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ in this time characterized by so much modernities in life brought about by new technologies that also spawn more materialistic thoughts that are often relativistic.

How ironic that as we love to hate modern media, we ourselves have relied on them too these past months. We have relied more on numbers than with God, falling into the trappings of social media of all glitz and glamour that were empty and worst, not the reality at all! We have been warned long ago to never rely on what we see in media that are most often human constructs. There is only one reality in this life, in this world: Jesus Christ.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Thomas said to him, “Master, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:5-6

The recent events in the country speak so loud and clear of how we have forgotten Jesus Christ. We have believed so much in ourselves, especially some of us in the clergy who have crossed the lines or, moved the lines, so to speak, forgetting the most essential, the only one Real, the person of Jesus Christ and his universal message of love and salvation to everyone.

In all our efforts and endeavors in this world, especially in those advocacies and causes we passionately work for, may we not forget that ultimately, it is all about persons and not ideals. The ideals we work and stand for are good because of the persons we fight for and ultimately, because of its very roots, the Person of Jesus who called us to do his work or mission in liberating the people, especially the poor.

Jesus had told us that the way, the truth, and the life on this earth is himself, a Person. Our ways can disappear and become totally obsolete but Jesus is always relevant and accessible, most of all, infallible as we have reflected last Sunday in his being the Good Shepherd who gives us eternal life. That is why he is the way as well as the truth and the life for everything hangs together in himself.

This is the basic truth that the Blessed Mother expressed at Fatima that she insisted to the three children of the need for us to enter into an intimate relationship in Jesus Christ her Son through the Sacraments of Penance and the Holy Eucharist.

Going back to Jesus as Mama Mary had taught us is going back to prayers and the sacraments. Of course, they are not everything but what can we live on if we are empty of Jesus? The recent exchanges of insults are proofs enough of whether we have Jesus or not.

Photo from Commission on Social Communication, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 2020.

Life is filled with so many mysteries, with more questions than answers. We have had all these questions long before of actors/actresses getting elected to local posts and to both houses of Congress but until now we have refused to accept the answers that majority of voters are not like us – proof how we especially in the Church have always been detached from the rest of the people. Instead of spending too much time with politics and with social media, we must go out and reach out to those people at the margins, the poorest of the poor we find only in our countless documents but never inside the church.

When Jesus and later his Mother Mary told us the simple answer to our question verbalized by Thomas, that Jesus himself is the way and the truth and the life, we are reassured that there is no other secret path or road to fulfillment in this world and into heaven where he is preparing a room for us to dwell after this life. But for now, we have to focus on Jesus more because as he later stressed to Philip in our gospel today, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn.14:9) – which is a call to witnessing the gospel more than ever!

In the first reading, Paul reminds us of the wrong choices made by his countrymen and fellow Jews in crucifying Jesus Christ who rose again from the dead. His Resurrection is proof of how God continues to work for us in our favor despite and in spite of setbacks and even crushing defeats.

Never lose hope in God. Do not let your hearts be troubled. Like in 1917 when Mother Mary first appeared in Fatima, life was so difficult and truly uncertain with so many kinds of wars at all fronts like today. On this feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Mother Mary is assuring us of better days ahead despite trials and difficulties if we choose and remain in her Son Jesus Christ.

May the Blessed Mother of the Rosary, our Lady of Fatima, pray for us always. Amen.

From FB of Our Lady of Fatima University and Fatima University Medical Center, 06 May 2022.

The Annunciation: the reality of God, the reality of our humanity

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 10:4-10 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, chapel beneath the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, Israel, May 2019.

Beneath the huge and magnificent Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a beautiful chapel where one may find a small cave converted into another little chapel with iron grills to keep off people from approaching the brightly lit altar believed to be the site where the Archangel Gabriel announced the good news of Christ’s birth to Mary.

At the base of the altar are the words, Verbum caro hic factum est, “The Word was made flesh here.”

Borrowed from John’s gospel who declared Verbum caro factum est – The Word was made flesh – the one who have thought of adding the demonstrative pronoun here to declare it as the site of the Annunciation – Verbum caro hic factum est – was definitely divinely inspired to remind us that the reality of God is something deeply ingrained in our own realities of here and now, in our very selves.

Photo by author, site of the Annunciation, May 2019.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.”

Luke 1:26-28

Only Luke has this account of the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to Mary. And true to his prologue to his gospel of “investigating everything accurately anew” about the life and teachings of Jesus, Luke tells us how the Annunciation happened with all the details like the five w’s in a news report, the who-what-where-when-why as we have heard proclaimed today.

This is very important because it tells us the factuality of the great spiritual reality that changed world history and the whole humanity when God became human, when eternity entered the temporal.

It is a beautiful presentation of this great event so profound and so touching that continues to happen within each one of us every day of our lives, of God coming to us, filling us with his grace because each of us is a beloved, a highly favored one chosen to be the indwelling of his Son, Jesus Christ like Mary.

This is the grace of this solemnity we celebrate nine months before Christmas, that God comes to us in our very humanity, always inviting us like Mary to receive Jesus, to be the vessel and instrument in fulfilling God’s great plans. We are like Mary in everything except in her being immaculately conceived – we are all poor and lowly, mostly a nobody in the society, but so loved by God!

Photo by author, flowers outside the Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth 2019.

God comes to us precisely where we are, in our every here and now even when we are most lowly and down, when we are deep in sin and despair, in trials and sufferings, in pains and in hurts because like Mary, even before the angel came, God had already silently started working on many things to save us.

There is always God’s perfect timing when we would meet the right people who would guide and help us.

There is always an Elizabeth that God would point us to as a signpost and proof of his reality, of his wonderful plan starting to uncover right in our very lives if we would stop like Mary to listen further to his words.

Speaking of Elizabeth, recall in Luke’s account that the angel mentioned her to Mary to allay her of her fears upon receiving the good news of Christ’s coming.

So often when God comes to us, fear naturally follows. In the Bible, it is described as “reverential fear” which comes upon an experience of the Holy; it is a feeling of being so small before the almighty God (mysterium fascinans) yet deep in this fear is a joy within about to burst because of the great honor and privilege of being loved and recognized by God. There is that normal feeling of doubts of whether we can do God’s mission or not as well as the feeling of checking the reality if it is really happening at all! Once we have verified we are not dreaming, that indeed we are called by God despite our smallness, that is when we suddenly remember our fellow mortals doing the work of God.

Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God… And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:36-38
Photo by author, Basilica of the Annunciation, Nazareth, 2019.

By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:10

Last week I underwent a surgery. It was my first time to be hospitalized and to go under the knife. Though it was a very simple procedure, I was nervous. Very nervous in fact although I tried to keep my sense of humor especially with my doctors and nurses.

The experience had taught me so many valuable lessons that I am still “masticating” them, trying to find words on how to express those learnings and realizations.

One of those is the discovery of my humanity, of my mortality. I feel I have become more human with that experience when I finally accepted my body, when slowly I have learned to look closely at my body parts I took for granted even so ashamed to look at, with all the blood and abscess and wounds.

Hindi pala puwede na hindi tayo magkakasakit, na mahina tayo, at walang perpekto sa atin na hindi kakailanganin ang tulong ng iba.

As I learned to accept my mortal body, slowly it dawned upon me how it is the true path to letting go and let God with my spiritual and emotional woundedness for it is in our humanity when God’s reality is most felt, most true. It is only when we are faced with the real threat of “harm” or being hurt, of possibly being extinct and gone from this earth when we realize what is to be afraid and finally entrust our total self to God for whatever will happen next.

That is the gift of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ that formally began in the annunciation of his birth to Mary. It is in accepting our very humanity and mortality when God truly comes, when we become one in him through Jesus Christ on the Cross. Amen.

Anniversaries are for the hearts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We strived. And we never stopped.

Photo from Facebook/OLFU.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo from OLFU/FB.

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

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

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

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

A blessed happy 55th anniversary to you!

Pagpapala ng Diyos, bumuhos sa Cana at Lourdes

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-11 ng Pebrero 2022
Paggunita sa Mahal na Birhen ng Lourdes
Isaias 66:10-14  +  Juan 2:1-11
Mga tao pumipila sa mapagpagaling na tubig ng batis sa Lourdes, France; larawan mula sa Shutterstock.
Papuri at pasasalamat sa iyo,
Diyos naming Ama sa pagbubuhos
ng iyong mga biyaya at pagpapala
sa amin sa pamamagitan ni
Hesus na iyong Anak:  kay sarap
isipin una niyang "tanda" o himala
nangyari doon sa kasalan sa Cana, 
Galilea nang gawin niyang masarap 
na inuming alak ang tubig na isinalin 
sa mga tapayan.
Sa gitna ng tanda na ito ay naroon
ang Mahal na Birheng Maria na nagkusang
namagitan sa mga bagong kasal nang 
maubusan ng alak sa kanilang pagdiriwang;
naligtas sila ni Hesus sa kahihiyan 
nang gawin niyang alak mga tubig
sa tapayan.
Makalipas ang kulang-kulang
dalawang libong taon noong 1858,
napakita ang Mahal na Birheng Maria
kay Santa Bernadette doon sa isang 
grotto sa Lourdes, France; bumukal
isang munting batis at hanggang 
ngayon, tinuturing na mapaghimala
matapos mapagaling maraming mga
maysakit.
Salamat sa biyaya ng tubig na
siya ring dumaloy sa sinibat na 
tagiliran ni Hesus doon sa Krus;
salamat sa biyaya ng tubig na
tanda ng paglilinis sa aming katauhan
sa sakramento ng binyag;
salamat Ama sa pagtupad ng iyong
pangako kay Propeta Isaias (66:10-14)
na kami ay iyong "padadalhan ng ina"
na sa amin ay "kakalinga at mag-aaruga 
tulad ng sa isang sanggol sa oras ng
pagkakasakit at kagipitan";  higit sa lahat,
salamat sa pagbibigay mo sa amin, 
Panginoong Hesus, sa iyong Ina, 
ang Mahal na Birheng Maria 
na naging daluyan ng maraming 
pagpapala at kagalingan sa mga 
may sakit at karamdaman sa 
iyong kapangyarihan.
Panginoong Hesus,
dalisayin mo kami at linisin
aming mga puso at kalooban
upang makatulad si Maria na iyong 
Ina at amin ding Ina; sa kanyang
pananalangin nawa kami ay maghatid
ng kagalingan at kapayapaan sa
mga may sakit at nahihirapan gaya
ng mapaghimalang tubig sa batis ng
grotto sa Lourdes, France lalong 
higit sa panahong ito ng pandemya.
Amen.

Welcoming the New Year with Mary

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of Mary, Holy Mother of God, 01 January 2022
Numbers 6:22-27 ><]]]'> Galatians 4:4-7 ><]]]'> Luke 2:16-21
Photo by author, sunset at Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

If there is any Christian and Catholic way of welcoming every new year, the liturgy teaches us today a very valuable lesson often overlooked by many through the years especially in our country where it is so difficult to eradicate totally the use of fireworks and firecrackers that are not only fatal and dangerous but also dirty and so pagan.

Recall that the Masses on the evening of the 31st of December and the first day of January are not for the new year – so, please stop those parish announcements “Mass for the New Year”! What we celebrate every evening of December 31 and January 1 is the “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” which is the Eighth Day of the Christmas octave. The Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God is part of the Christmas season that is why I insist we keep on greeting each other with “Merry Christmas” until its closing day on the Baptism of the Lord (January 09, 2021).

Why do we spend so much time counting the days until Christmas when right away we stop greeting Merry Christmas on December 26 and replace it with Happy New Year? Is it not crazy and insane? We had our new year on the first Sunday of Advent; let us continue the “romance” of this most wonderful day of the year with our “Merry Christmas” greetings. In fact, in the old calendar, there are 12 days of Christmas (yeah, the song!) until the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord that used to be fixed every January 6.

But that is another topic we shall discuss in another piece… for now, let us meditate on how Mary welcomed the new year, the new phase in her life as Mother of God, Jesus Christ.

“The Adoration of the Shepherds”, a painting of the Nativity scene by Italian artist Giorgione before his death in 1510. Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.

Luke 2:16-17

Mary went in haste for the Lord

We are familiar with the popular proverb that “haste makes waste” because doing things too quickly leads to mistakes that result in greater losses in time, effort, and materials. Even the saints have always cautioned us that haste is the biggest enemy of growth in spirituality.

However, during Christmas season, we find something so good with making haste – when it pertains to the things of God like when Mary went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judah and when shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem after being told by the angels of the birth of Christ as we have heard in the gospel today.

Haste is not totally that bad at all.

If there is one thing that merits haste in us, it must be the things of God. Why, when we pray and say, “O God come to my assistance”, we respond with “O Lord make haste to help me”? Because God always hasten to come to us even before we have called him! But, who among us these days make haste where the things of God are concerned?

How sad that we rush to everything and everyone except to Jesus our Lord and God! In less than a week, we have gone back to over 1000 infections of COVID as people rushed to the malls and places of interests, forgetting all about the pandemic! More sad is the fact so many people have been in making haste to these days for the more mundane things without even spending some quality time in the church to pray.

This 2022, let us be quick to God and prayers, be cautious with things of the world. That is the lesson of COVid-19: all these years we have been in haste to get rich and famous, to produce so much but we have neglected going to God, to feeding our souls, to spending time with our loved ones. For so long we have kept many people waiting until COVID-19 came and quickly took them without warning at all.

Before the shepherds went in haste to see the newborn Jesus, there was Mary in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Let us go in haste always in the Lord for he has so many things in store for us as the shepherds and Elizabeth realized.

From forwarded cartoon at Facebook, December 2019.

All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.

Luke 2:18-19

Mary meditating in silence

It is very interesting that Luke had told us how people were amazed at what the shepherds spoke about that night on the birth of the Christ, the Infant Jesus they have found on a manger with his Mother Mary and her husband Joseph. Keep in mind that the shepherds were among the least trusted people of that time but their story went “viral” and “trending” so to speak.

And amid all these talks was Mary, the Mother of Jesus, silently meditating everything in her heart!

That is the most Christian and Catholic way of welcoming the new year – silent prayer like adoration of the Blessed Sacrament after the evening Mass on December 31. We look back for the blessing of the past year as we silently listen to God’s instructions and divine plans for us this new year. We are his children, not slaves as St. Paul reminded us in the second reading.

This first day of 2022, let us have some silent moments with the Lord Jesus. Simply listen and wait for his words. He always have something to tell us but we always go in haste somewhere else or to somebody else. Jesus is right there in our hearts, the faintest voice you always dismiss and take for granted.

This 2022, let us cultivate to have a prayer life like Mary who always kept in her heart the words and experiences she had with Jesus. Let us not be like the shepherds who were there only at Christmas, never came back to Jesus specially when he was preaching in Galilee and when crucified on Good Friday wherein his constant companion in silence was Mary his Mother.

Photo by author, 24 December 2019.

When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Luke 2:21

The faith of Mary

Like us when Mary gave birth to Jesus on that first Christmas, she was totally unaware of what was in store for her, of what would happen to her Son. She was totally unaware of what would happen in the future. The only thing she was certain was the name to be given to her child, Jesus which means “God is my Savior”.

As I have told, ushering the new year with all those loud firecrackers and fireworks are pagan practices.

All blessings come only from God, not from any other spirits.

We drive all the malas and bad spirits and negative vibes of the past year not with noises and blasts of trumpets or fireworks but with silence that is rooted in deep faith in Christ Jesus.

Such was the attitude of Mary on that first Christmas until her glorious Assumption into heaven: she never knew Jesus would be betrayed by one of his trusted friends and apostles. She was never told by the angel how after Jesus would feed and heal so many people that he would later be arrested and crucified like a criminal but believed in him until the end, remaining with Christ at the foot of the Cross.

All Mary had was a deep faith in Jesus as told her by the angel as the name to be given to her child is also the child of the Most High.

There is no need for us to consult fortune tellers nor feng-shui masters to look into the future and tell us how it is going to be this 2022. No matter how easy or difficult this new year may be, only one thing is certain – Jesus Christ is with us and will remain with us even if we abandon him or turn away from him for he is the only Lord and Savior of mankind. Let us keep our faith in him alone – and not to round fruits nor stones nor other stuffs peddled to us to bring luck this new year.

Let us imitate Mary, the Mother of God, so human like us except in sin who was always in haste with things of God, silently meditating his words and workings, and most of all, trusting wholly in her Son Jesus. Amen.

Photo by author, sunset at Liputan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.