The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, 11 February 2021
Thursday, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick
Isaiah 66:10-14 >><)))*> + <*(((><< John 2:1-11
Praise and glory to you, dearest God our Father through your Son Jesus Christ who gave us his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother too as we celebrate today the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick.
From the beginning since Jesus Christ began his ministry to our modern time, Mary has always been with him showing us your great signs of presence, of generosity, and of life first anticipated at the wedding feast at Cana.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. when the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
I cannot help but rejoice at how our evangelist situated the first sign performed by Jesus which is “on the third day”, reminding us of Easter Sunday, the fullness of your coming to us, the fullness of our healing and salvation, the third day after the “hour” of the Lord.
Both at Cana and at Lourdes there was water, the sign of your life and in both instances, Mary was present interceding for our benefit.
At Cana, water became an excellent wine to prefigure the Lord’s Supper we celebrate each day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a foretaste of our promised glory in heaven while at Lourdes, water transformed the sick who were healed after they have come to bathe at its springs.
Through the example of faith by Mother Mary, our human efforts now encounter the gift of God in Jesus to create the feast of joy of communion, of healing, of fulfillment that can only be made possible by God’s presence and his gift of self in Christ.
At Cana and on to Lourdes and wherever we may be, every day is God’s coming, the “hour” of Jesus in every “here” and “now” when we experience the sign of God’s overflowing generosity to us all who are so tired and exhausted in this life especially the sick in this time of the corona pandemic.
Thank, loving God our Father in fulfilling your promise through the prophet Isaiah that you would send us a mother who shall comfort us in moments of sickness and darkness.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes help us get through these tough times and lead us closer to Jesus her Son who is our true Peace and Joy by doing whatever he tells us like the servants at Cana. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 January 2021
Every road trip is filled with music. A lot of music. In fact, it is not a road trip without any kind of music! As I was telling you, this road trip was inspired by that line from Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne, “Is there gas in the car?”
As we drove to Tanay from Baras Church, our playlist had Rod Stewart singing one of our generation’s staple music so “relate much” with our own experiences…
I didn’t know what day it was When you walked into the room I said, “Hello” unnoticed You said goodbye too soon
Breezing through the clientele Spinning yarns that were so lyrical I really must confess right here The attraction was purely physical (oh, yeah)
Okay. Suspend your judgments for now and let me say too that when men get together whether on a road trip or not, surely topic would always be on women and past relationships.
Always. Even with priests like me who had studied and worked for a long time “outside” the seminary. There is always that somebody in the group who would pop up with that question “have you had a girlfriend before”?
Sorry… you have to go with me in an actual road trip to hear my stories while I am obliged with the “seal of confession” of sorts to keep my lips zipped with Dindo’s stories as we talked about our past relationships while singing with Rod Stewart on our way to Tanay. One thing for sure, though, like real gentlemen, when we talked about women, it was very true, so divine, like those lines …
My love for you is immeasurable My respect for you immense You’re ageless, timeless, lace and fineness You’re beauty and elegance
You’re a rhapsody, a comedy You’re a symphony and a play You’re every love song ever written But honey, what do you see in me?
You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul You’ll be my breath should I grow old You are my lover, you’re my best friend You’re in my soul
The way we relate with women
indicates how we relate with God.
Twenty years ago, I have read from one of the writings by Papal Preacher Raniero Cardinal de Cantalamessa how an American Dominican exegete had put forward that the way we relate with women mirrors our way of relating with God.
That is very true.
Women are God’s loveliest creations that without them, we men would never be complete. Some even claim that women must be the one closest to God in appearance, more perfect than us men that is why she was created last.
What is amazing again with this road trip is how our second stop at the Tanay Church confirmed our discussions of women.
First, it was a woman who directed us to the main entrance to the church because its gate was partly hidden by some obstructions at that time from the main road. Then, inside the church, three women catechists warmly welcomed us near its magnificent altar.
And when I recognized its Patron is St. Ildephonse of Toledo in Spain, I realized again how this road trip “was taking us instead of us taking the trip” on that rainy Thursday, January 07, 2021.
When I was ordained deacon in 1997, I was assigned to help the late Fr. Johann Sebastian in a parish at Pinaod, San Ildefonso town in Bulacan. Of course, San Ildefonso is St. Ildephonse…
Next, Fr. Johann was a resident of San Ildefonso whose house was across the Parish Church where we used to watch the procession during his feast on January 23.
Most of all, it was from Fr. Johann that I learned so much about St. Ildephonse who had lived around the years 607-667 in Toledo, Spain that used to be the main seat of the Church in Spain before Madrid. Outside Fr. Johann’s room used to be displayed a huge painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to St. Ildephonse while giving him heavenly vestments (chasuble) as gifts for his efforts in propagating devotions to her. In fact, St. Ildephonse was one of the early bishops who had written about the Immaculate Conception of Mary that was finally declared a dogma of the Church in 1854.
Here we are in the beautiful church of Tanay recently declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as a “National Cultural Treasure” under the patronage of St. Ildephonse, truly a holy and a gentleman with a great devotion to the Mother of God that mirrored his fidelity in serving God his Master and Lord!
Shortly after praying and exchanging stories with the three catechists, the Parish Priest, Msgr. Rigoberto de Guzman came to meet and formally welcomed us in his church. Actually, we were hesitant to meet Msgr. Rigs as we did not want to disturb him but we were told that he usually welcomed pilgrims to their parish.
Likewise, I was not so sure if he could still recall me since we have met only twice ten years ago when he was the Rector of the Antipolo Cathedral during the time of Bishop Gabby Reyes while I was with Radio Veritas. And, lo and behold — Msgr. Rigs still knew me, even telling me how he had come across some of my reflections in the Sabbath publication!
A very soft spoken and kind-hearted man of God, Msgr. Rigs thanked me on behalf of our diocese in forming many of their priests who have graduated from our Major Seminary. As a token of his appreciation especially after learning that I teach and serve as a spiritual director in our major seminary, he gave me a framed image of Our Lady of the Poor and Suffering known also as Our Lady of Banneux in Belgium where she appeared eleven times to an 11-year old girl in 1933.
Oh my God!
First, it was St. Joseph who greeted us at Baras; now, we have my second most favorite image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Banneux welcoming us in Tanay! As I thanked Msgr. Rigs for his gift, he led me to the side of their church where stood an exact replica of the Virgin of Banneux — something we have overlooked earlier due to the rains!
At that very moment, I felt the Blessed Mother’s comforting assurance of love and guidance, especially with my new assignment as chaplain of the Our Lady of Fatima University and Medical Center effective February 16, 2021. What a pleasant morning talking about the women in our lives now capped with the most wonderful woman of all, our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first time I learned about Our Lady of Banneux was when I met the sisters in charge of the Boys’ Town and Girls’ Town in Cavite way back in 2007 after learning about the works of their founder, the Venerable Fr. Al Schwartz, an American priest who worked here among the poorest of the poor. He was a devotee of the Our Lady of Banneux who is very much like the Our Lady of Fatima, so lovely and very simple. Both appeared in the early 20th century in Europe to show Mary’s oneness with humanity going through so many sufferings and afflictions up to this age. It is something many devotees in our diocese in Bulacan seem to be missing with their pomp and pageantry in crowning every image of the Blessed Virgin to be found, even in a bodega or a patio!
That is the beauty and charm of the two old churches we have visited in Baras and Tanay: both are simply elegant, not extravagant nor loud where one can have time with God and the sacred.
After the rains have stopped, Msgr. Rigs prayed over us and blessed us as we left for Pililla while listening this time to Hall and Oates. More rock and roll reflections in our final installment. See ya!
The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, 01 January 2021
Number 6:22-27 >><)))*> Galatians >><)))*> Luke 2:16-21
A blessed Merry Christmas to you all!
Please, continue greeting one another with a “Merry Christmas” than with “Happy New Year” because Christmas is not over yet; besides, we Catholics celebrated our new year last November 29, the first Sunday of Advent. Most of all, it is so unfair to Jesus that we easily forget Him and think more of the new year! What happened to those Christmas countdowns that began in September only to stop greeting “Merry Christmas” after eight days?
Most of all, contrary to what most priests are erroneously saying today, our Mass is not for the new year but for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Although the sacramentary (our book for the celebration of Mass) has prayers for the Mass on new year, it also says – written in red ink to stress this point – that one cannot celebrate the Mass for new year on January first because the proper celebration on this date is the Motherhood of Mary.
The “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” used to be celebrated on October 11 but during the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers deemed it more right and proper to celebrate every January first which is the eighth day called octave of Christmas. This solemnity also abolished the feasts of the Circumcision of Our Lord (January 1) and the Holy Name of Jesus (Sunday between January 1 and 8, or January 2).
Nonetheless, as a further background to our liturgy, today’s celebration is also the oldest feast in honor of Mary, dating back to year 431 after the Council of Ephesus when the Church declared Mary as the Mother of God following heresies claiming Jesus was not born divine but only human, that he assumed his divinity later in life as he matured. It was during that Council of Ephesus when the Church Fathers insisted that when Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, His divinity was not diminished nor lost. Hence, Mary shall be called the Mother of God Jesus Christ who is true God and true human, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
While the whole world is celebrating in revelry with all the pagan practices of fireworks and noise that sadly include many Christians, we Catholics on this first day of the new year celebrate Mary the Mother of God as our model disciple in journeying through life this 2021 in Jesus Christ.
Beginning anew in Jesus like Mary
It has been more than 24 hours since my iPhone “crashed” that I now merely rely on Messenger for communications. But, it is a wonderful feeling too! Nothing bothering me so I can rest fully today.
Yes, I am a “dinosaur” when it comes to these tech things and gadgets. When I got this phone in 2018, I never bothered to check its “storage capacity”, thinking since it is a high-end phone, it must be very, very good.
Then came the pandemic last year when I had to use it for our daily online Mass until it showed signs of problems two weeks ago when I found out we have used all its 32 GB capacity.
But, as I learned all those things about storage capacity of cellphones and computers, I remembered the Blessed Virgin Mary in our gospel today.
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. 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.
How beautiful to hear those words of the evangelist, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Yes, better than any cellphone and computer is the human heart with unlimited storage capacities for all memories, data and images of life! How sad we have been keeping all those wonderful events in our lives inside this tiny gadgets that eventually would be corrupted by bugs or even hacked.
But we have this heart – the core of our very being where we process all those memories and images of everything we are going through and have gone through.
We celebrate today this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God to remind us in keeping the Christmas story alive through the new year by imitating the Blessed Mother in treasuring and reflecting all our experiences – good and bad – in 2020!
Imagine that image of Jesus born in a manger: it must be so dark, even filthy and smelly – maybe like how our lives have been last year. But, do not forget, there was Jesus present with us in the darkness and dirt and foul smell of 2020.
If life has been so good and kind to you last year, reflect on those memories, find Jesus in those joy like the shepherds and share the good news and blessings you have received!
I love that part Mary “treasured” – as something precious – all those things said by the shepherds, reflecting them in her heart. Luke would always present Mary keeping everything in her heart to reflect them especially when things and events were beyond her understanding.
The same is true with life. Sometimes, we just cannot comprehend the many things that have happened in 2020.
Instead of blaming the year 2020 for all the negative things that have have happened, Mary shows us the way by looking into our selves, into our hearts to “process” all those experiences, find their meaning, and most of all, what God is trying to tell us. That is Christmas – Jesus became human like us to be with us specially in our sufferings and trials in life. Problem is, we are so filled with ourselves as our cellphones and other gadgets would show – selfies and so many posts most often done for the sake of “likes” and “followers”.
Do we still have memories? Do we still remember? Or, should the question be, do we still feel at all?
Whenever I see people with arms stretched looking through their cellphones in so many events, I pity them because they fail to feel and savor the moment, living in a “mediated” world, not grounded and detached from the realities of life. This is perhaps the reason why despite the affluence of life today, more people are lost, alone, alienated, and empty.
There are two local commercials that I have always loved and they both featured grandparents having Alzheimer’s.
First is McDonald’s about ten or 15 years ago of a lolo slicing into half his cheeseburger, saying, “ito para sa paborito kong apo, si Karen” (this is for my favorite grandchild, Karen).
Second is the Ayala Malls’ “Wishing Tree” in 2019 where the grandmother, so sad and haggard looking suddenly smiled again with her face lighting up in joy when she saw the old CCTV footages of her trips to the Mall with her apo in the past.
Both commercials show how big is the storage capacity of our hearts to keep our beautiful memories with loved ones even if the memories in our brain “crash”.
How amazing that the heart remains intact with its stored memories of events and persons who have loved us – and even hurt us. That is how big is our heart as a storage of memories that must be treasured, processed, and reflected upon like what Mary did to deepen our faith, widen our perspectives and most of all, find Jesus Christ.
See my dear Reader how at the end of the gospel on the eighth day Mary’s child was given with the name “Jesus” – the only thing she and Joseph were certain of about their child. The same is so true with us on this day as we begin 2021: we do not know what will happen to us. Nothing is really so certain, not even having that COVID-19 vaccine, legally speaking.
Like Mary and Joseph, all we have for sure is Jesus, the only One we must trust and follow, the only One we must nurture and share so that His face may shine upon us (Num.6:25) and lead us to eternal life as heirs to the kingdom of heaven as children of the Father (Gal.4:7).
Have a blessed Merry Christmas this new year, and may the Lord bless you and keep you! Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-7 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week IV, 22 December 2020
1 Samuel 1:24-28 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 1:46-56
When I was about to enter the high school seminary, an aunt would always comment on our way to school how I would become a priest when I am a big fan of rock and roll music. You know, the usual stuff ever since with old folks about rock music as evil and everything…
Looking back, I just imagine what if I had told her and my other relatives the meaning of Steely Dan that is my most favorite band? Most likely they would have fainted! And I would tell tell them too that I am the only priest who had played Stairway to Heaven in Radio Veritas where I used to co-anchor a show, playing only good, old rock n’ roll to the delight of many listeners despite protests from management.
Lately I have been blogging every week linking secular music with the Sunday gospel that had enabled me to reach new and younger generations I hope had rediscovered Jesus in the music I had offered them.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had said that “music is the food of the soul” and it is very true for it transcends cultures and languages that even if you do not understand the lyrics, music always touches the soul.
Meanwhile, the great English playwright William Shakespeare is said to tell his audience at the start of his plays that “If music be the food of love, play on.” That’s very beatiful. Like love, music is best served with another person; when we sing, it is always to pour our hearts out. We let others hear our song even if we sing alone because that is what music is all about – it is meant to be shared.
This is the reason why Mary sang her Magnificat during her Visitation of Elizabeth, not by herself in Nazareth after the angel had left after announcing to her the birth of Jesus.
Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Mary praised and thanked God with her “Magnificat”
Recall how Elizabeth praised Mary twice and her baby Jesus in the womb once yesterday at the Visitation. Naturally for us, when we are praised we always return it by praising too whoever spoke nicely of us.
But that was not the case with Mary. She took the occasion to praise and thank God for all His goodness and salvific work in her and in Elizabeth. Like Hanna in the first reading and responsorial psalm today who sang praises to God in giving her a son in the prophet Samuel, Mary while filled with the Holy Spirit sang this canticle, narrating how God worked in her and through her.
Our lives is a song of thanksgiving always to God who never stops doing great things for us not to make us famous but to bring His divine will into fulfillment. Mary affirmed this when she admitted her own blessedness, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Yesterday we have reflected that true blessedness is to trust in God. Likewise, Mary added another dimension in what is to be blessed before God and that is being His servant, His slave or in her very words to the angel at the annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
A handmaid is the feminine form of “slave” but more than being poetic in her identification as a female slave of God, Mary through her Magnificat showed us a glimpse of the lives of the early Christians at that time who were considered “weird” and “odd”, even “bizarre” among the Roman pagans who could not understand why they worshipped Jesus Christ they saw as “a crucified criminal”.
Worst of all for the pagans, they could not understand why the early Christians who were mostly poor would give themselves to Jesus in loving service to others like the sick, the elderly, the hungry, widows and orphans and those living in the margins.
In fact, the Roman historian Pliny recorded in his writings how during the persecution the emperor’s soldiers rounded up Christians in every town and city by looking for anybody doing good, serving the poor and needy! It is something to think about for us Christians today: Would any one of us be arrested because we are doing something good like serving the less fortunate?
Mary, the first model disciple, the first to live out the Gospel
In singing her blessedness by God, Mary had assumed her being the spokeswoman of the early Christians, the poor ones or anawim of Israel who were truly poor materially, trusting entirely on God.
Here lies her challenge to us who love to sing her Magnificat: do we allow God to work in us His salvation?
“He has mercy on those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he remembered his promise of mercy…”
Again, we find many similarities in the Mary’s Magnificat and Hanna’s song we heard in the responsorial psalm. But, more than that is the striking similarity of Magnificat with the Beatitudes to be preached by Jesus according to Luke.
In Matthew’s gospel, there are eight Beatitudes preached by Jesus at his sermon on the mount; Luke narrated it differently by citing only four Beatitudes he paired with four woes that Jesus preached in His sermon on the plain (this is due to the different audience Luke and Matthew addressed):
Blessed are you who are poor… Blessed are you who are now hungry… Blessed are you who are now weeping… Blessed are you when people hate you…
Woe to you who are rich… Woe to you who are filled… Woe to you who laugh now… Woe to you when all speak well of you…
Magnificat is the Gospel in a nutshell. See the works of God cited by Mary perfectly jibing with the Beatitudes of Jesus. Here we find again how Luke has shown us the consistency of Mary as a disciple of her Son Jesus Christ by witnessing to His teachings, living them out for which she was crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.
This is the reason why I love so much the image of Fatima and of Banneux known as Lady of the Poor with Mary portrayed as so simple yet so lovely and beautiful. What a scandal for the Church in our time with all those lavish processions and coronations of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the poor are left out, becoming more of a social function among the rich and famous. What a shame most especially amid the pandemic when some parishes can spend so much fortune in these rituals that look more as a show which the Blessed Virgin would definitely disapprove. Keep in mind how Mary identified herself as “handmaid of the Lord” — do away all those pomp and pageantries please!
Every night, we priests and the religious sing the Magnificat in our Evening prayers to examine ourselves if we have lived out the Gospel message of the Lord, if we have been poor and hungry, if we have allowed ourselves to be used by God to effect His salvation among the suffering.
The same is true with every disciple of Jesus: when we sing the Magnificat or “Ang Puso ko’y nagpupuri”, we have to do some soul searching how consistent we have been as a disciple of the Lord like His Mother Mary.
How sad late yesterday when some people -whether they are trolls or not – had come out expressing support to that cop who brutally shot and killed Sonya Gregorio and her son Anton in their home in Paniqui, Tarlac Sunday afternoon.
How can some people be not affected and even defend or belittle such unspeakable crime of a man supposed to uphold the law, protect civilians?
What had gone wrong with us as the only Christian nation in this part of the world?
Can we sing “Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri sa Panginoon, nagagalak ang aking espiritu, sa aking Tagapagligtas” while we rejoice and defend all forms of brutalities and violence around us?
As we strongly condemn this unspeakable crime and demand justice for Sonya and Anton, let us work hard and pray hardest to imitate Mary to effect change in the society we live in and create by being a voice of the poor and vessel of God’s salvation. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, 20 December 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16 >><)))*> Romans 16:25-27 >><)))*> Luke 1:26-38
We are now on the final week of our four Sundays of preparations for Christmas. We have been saying Christmas 2020 is surely the most different and difficult in our lives due to the pandemic. However, it may also be the most meaningful when we have more of spiritual values, less of material things; more of the other persons, less of ourselves; and, more of Jesus, less of the Christmas trimmings.
Today we heard the beautiful story of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ found only in the gospel of Luke, the source of many inspirations in arts for many centuries even today. The scene reveals to us the artistry and spirituality of Luke believed to be a medical doctor who was a disciple of St. Paul. He is the only evangelist who admitted he had “investigated everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence (the events about Jesus Christ) so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Lk.1:3-4).
And what is that certainty Luke looked into? That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to the patriarchs and prophets, who is the very presence of God among us. That is why Luke wrote a second volume to his gospel, the Acts of the Apostles to show us Jesus still present in the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this beautiful canvass painted to us by Luke on Jesus the Christ in his Gospel and Acts we also find in a supporting role the Blessed Virgin Mary, His own Mother and model disciple.
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.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. then the angel said to her, “do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end”
The discipleship of Mary
As a former journalist, I have always considered the four evangelists as the premiere reporters of Jesus Christ. Mark is the old school type of straight news reporting, writing the basic who, what, where, when and why, making his gospel the first to be written and shortest as he was in a hurry, a true journalist. Matthew is more of a feature writer or interpretative reporter while John was a news analyst, an op-ed columnist.
Luke is the modern journalist using the “digital platform” who goes on “live as it happens” with all the colors and actions without losing depth and focus like the BBC and Al Jazeera. He brings us where the news is happening as you must have noticed yesterday in the story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah which also served as introduction to his lead story of Christmas, the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Here we see the unique position of Mary as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke tells us how Mary is the only one to have believed in a “situation of contemporaneity” as Fr. Cantalamessa would love to say, meaning, she believed while the event was taking place and prior to any confirmation by the event or history.
See how Matthew presented some facts already known to him in narrating the annunciation to Joseph where the angel clarified Mary’s pregnancy was due to the Holy Spirit. Luke, on the other hand, is like reporting live in real time, so realistic with Mary and the angel conversing to each other!
Writing in Greek like the rest of the authors in the New Testament, Luke did not use the usual Hebrew greeting of “Shalom” when Gabriel appeared to Mary, addressing her instead with chaire or “Rejoice favored one” that means especially graced from which came our translation from the Latin “Hail, full of grace!” in 1:28.
The favor or grace of Mary has found with God in 1:30 is explained in 1:31 in the future tense, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son“. What is amazing here is that there is the sense of certitude on the part of the angel that the future will definitely take place because Mary has already been highly favored one by God before this event. How?
Though Mary will finally become a disciple at the end by saying “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” in 1:38, we find in 1:29 how she had always been disposed to the will and grace of God when Luke described how “she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be“.
Mary “pondered“ – meaning, she prayed, she meditated right away the greetings to her, indicating her openness and disposition to listen and follow the will of God. That shows how even before the annunciation happened, Mary had always been obedient to God that is why she could say yes to Him when asked to be the Mother of the Savior.
Here we find Mary’s consistency as a disciple of the Lord, her Son Jesus still to be born but already existing in eternity!
When we were growing up, our mother would always tell us that once our names are called either by her or by our father, we only say one thing, “Opo… ano po iyon?” (Yes, what is it?). That is old school discipline where we literally obeyed first even without any instruction yet because we have always been assured parents would never tell kids to do something bad or wrong. And we believed that. Unlike today’s generations where the usual reply to parents’ call is “wait” that no wonder, we now ask God wait before he can speak to us. Thank God I did not get married….
Going back to Mary, we now find the contrast with yesterday’s annunciation to Zechariah: Mary pondered and felt everything in her heart and soul while Zechariah reasoned out, used more his head than his heart – something we must ponder this Christmas. Mary right away had her heart, her very self onto the Christmas Nativity while Zechariah was stuck in his negativity.
Mary believed while the event, the annunciation, was taking place, prior to any confirmation by the event itself or by history. Later we shall see that expression “pondering in her heart” repeated often by Luke and also by John in presenting Mary: after listening to the words of the shepherds who came to see baby Jesus at His birth in Bethlehem, at finding Jesus at the temple aged 12, and during the wedding feast at Cana where He did His first miracle.
The faith of Mary
From the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to His crucifixion, Easter and Pentecost, Mary always believed. During the Visitation, Elizabeth praised her, becoming the first to call Mary as “blessed” because “you believed what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45).
Eight days after Easter, Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe! ” (Jn 20:29). Early at the annunciation, Mary was the first to have believed without having seen Jesus Christ!
Mary teaches us the importance of subjective faith or the act of simply believing and trusting God, a person-to-person relationship with Him.
But it is not enough because it could lead to isolationism when we become individualistic and begin to have our own concept of God like what is happening these days especially with many Catholics with their own interpretations of God, heaven, evil and sin among other things.
Like Mary, we need to cultivate also objective faith, believe in the content of faith of the community. Mary believed God relating with the ancient prophets and patriarchs of Israel which the angel mentioned to her during the annunciation. See that after the annunciation, Mary hastily went to visit Elizabeth to share her good news and her faith. In her we learn that faith leads to a mission that is seen in the context of a community, the Church where Mary was portrayed to us praying with the disciples of Jesus during the Pentecost at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.
So here we find the consistency of Mary even before the annunciation that continued on in the life of the Church we still experience today in her many apparitions and messages always centered on Jesus not herself.
That is the call of Advent to us all: to be consistently clear with our faith with the one to be born at Christmas, Jesus Christ who is the Son of the Father, our Savior promised in Old Testament, now the very presence of God among us.
It is not enough that we just pray and believe; like Mary, we need to get out of ourselves and give ourselves to God and the Church. This is especially true with us priests who seem to believe more to himself and to media than with God! We must constantly examine ourselves if we truly believe in what we preach, in the kind of lives we lead. Is Jesus still center of our lives or us that we are so concerned always with our “image”, always seeking “likes” and “followers” than anything else?
If there is anyone who should be the first to be consistent in faith in God in any community, that must be the priest or pastor.
A few weeks ago while striving through the many challenges of my personal life and my ministry since this pandemic began, a parishioner told me how they draw strength and inspiration from me. I asked her why and how? What does my personal life has anything to do with them?
She explained that whenever they see me still going through with my ministry, holding on in my prayers and daily Masses, still smiling and can still laugh and crack jokes — they just feel they too can overcome their trials and difficulties.
I have realized in that short conversation more than preaching and explaining faith and its content, people look more at how faithful are we truly are as men of faith. That aside from dispensing the sacraments and doing all the ministries in my parish, there is also the task so unknown to me before of enkindling the faith of my flock, of guiding and leading them to God based on how do I live that faith in God with joy and patience.
People believe in God and the Church when they experience their pastor believing first in God and the Church. Like the COVID-19 virus, faith is contagious that spreads by coming into contact with. We priests must be the first to be “infected” with faith in the parish so that everyone would be “positive” with it, creating a “pandemic” in faith!
That is the consistency of Mary as a disciple — she is a “carrier” of a deep, joyful and active faith in Jesus, “infecting” everyone so positively that despite the difficult and trying situations we are into, we celebrate Christ’s coming amid the pandemic.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the BVM, 08 December 2020
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 >><)))*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 >><)))*> Luke 1:26-38
Glory and praise to you, O God our loving Father! In your eternal love you have desired to restore us to our original state in you as pure and holy by sending us Jesus Christ our Savior who was born by his immaculately conceived Mother, Mary of Nazareth.
Brothers and sisters: Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.
On this most joyous day of Mary’s Immaculate Conception, I pray only for one thing: that like the Blessed Virgin Mary we may recover the value of silent listening in our world that has become so noisy. In the streets, in vehicles, in homes and everywhere including houses of worship, people are always plugged into something they only want to listen to. Worst, many people have come to refuse and even fear unconsciously silent listening.
How amazing, O Lord, that “silent” and “listen” are both an anagram of exactly same letters for these words perfectly go together: we need to be silent in order to be able to listen. And when we learn to listen in silence, then we become trusting and obedient too like Mary, something we need so badly these days of too much materialism and individualism.
How unfortunate and tragic, O Lord, that in our world today, we care to listen not only to the loudest sounds we can hear but ultimately to voices that would please and massage our ego like in the story of the fall of man.
Silent listening is heeding your call to enter into a communion in you when we have to lose ourselves and trust you entirely like Mary. She was willing to make time for you, to leave everything behind in order to silently listen to the angel announcing the birth of Jesus.
Forgive us when we refuse to “make” time of silent listening for you and even our neighbors because we are afraid of silence in the first place; we are so afraid to hear our true selves speaking, that we are all your servants, that we are mortals, that we are limited, that we need you inasmuch as we need others too. We prefer the noises of the world that make us feel we are in control of everything, even of our very selves when we are not.
We think that silence is like waiting when we have to be empty, not realizing that silence is a fullness when we are able to listen to so many voices and sounds, even the most faintest we disregard but often most valuable like your voice deep within our hearts that asks us to do what is good and avoid what is evil; the feeble voice of our true selves desiring meaning; and, the silent cries of the voiceless among us, of those living in the margins, the poor, the sick, the old, and the children.
In silent listening, Mary was able to grasp so much in your fullness that she gave her fiat after listening to the good news from the Archangel Gabriel:
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
As we prepare for your Second Coming, dear Jesus in this season of Advent, give us the grace of silent listening like Mary so we become more sensitive of your presence within us and especially among the poor and suffering. Amen.
Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-26 ng Nobyembre 2020
Sana'y inyong ipagpaumanhin
at ako ma'y patawarin
ng Mahal na Ina natin
sa aking sasabihin
na noon pa man
hindi ko inililihim:
Ano itong pagkahumaling
ng marami sa mga kapatid natin
sa pagkokorona sa Birheng Maria?
Mayroon pa bang hihigit
sa kanyang koronasyon
Hindi kaya ito kalabisan
o inggitan ng iilan
na ang tanging sandigan
ng debosyon kay Maria
ay panglabas lamang
upang hilig ay mapagbigyan
kahit walang kabuluhan
sa isang palabas na walang laman?
tanging mga katangian nitong pagkokorona
hindi birong halaga ginagasta
sa gitna ng isang pandemya
tila baga nawala na rin
panglasa at pang-amoy
nahawahan na rin
ng corona virus
debosyon sa masintahing Ina
di nila alintana
sila-sila lang nasa eksena
wala naman ang balana.
Sana'y tigilan na
ng Birheng Maria
na lumalaganap tulad ng virus
dahil natitiyak ko
hindi rin siya masaya
sa gayong parangal sa kanya;
din niya tulad ni Hesus
propesiya ni Oseas:
"habag ang nais ko
hindi mga susunuging hain."
Ang higit na nakakabahala
sa ginagawa nilang pagkokorona
sa Birheng Maria bilang Reyna
wala na ring pinagkaiba
sa mga monarkiya
lalo na sa Europa
na sadyang pang-aliw
na lamang sa mga turista
walang kahulugan ni
katuturan sa takbo ng buhay
maliban sa lumipas na kasaysayan
at yaman ng kanilang kalinangan.
Hindi ba ang korona
ng Birheng Maria
ay ang putong niyang
katapatan at kababaang-loob
sa harap ng Diyos,
buod ng kanyang Magnificat?
Siya na ating Reyna
kayamanan at korona
ay mga dukha
ningning at kinang
wala sa ginto at ano mang brilyante!
Balikan, higit sa lahat pagnilayan,
pagpapakita ng Birheng Maria
sa makabagong panahon
doon sa Lourdes, Fatima at Banneux
dama kanyang pagka-Reyna
dahil kaisa niya mga bata at dukha;
higit sa lahat, si Maria
ang tinutularan, pilit inaalam
hindi tulad ng kinagagawian
malayo sa katotohanan at kabanalan!
Ang hamon ng Birheng Maria
siya ang ating makatulad
hindi siya manika o sagala
na inaayusan dahil sa sariling kagustuhan!
Larawan niya ay karukhaan at kababaang-loob
hindi kapalaluan na pinaglalaruan;
huwag nating ipilit ang sa atin
korona ni Maria ay sirain
at maging koronang tinik
sakit at hapis ang kapalit;
koronang putik na ang dungis sa atin babahid
o corona virus sadyang wala na si Hesus!
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 17 October 2020
It is the world’s most powerful weapon in any war, the most potent medicine for any ailment but has always been shunned upon by many especially in this age of sophisticated technology and modern science.
This is the Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, so loved by most saints in the past 800 years, encouraged by the Mother Church, and now rediscovered by many in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.
How prophetic were the words of St. John Paul II in October 16, 2002 when he declared it as “Year of the Rosary” by adding the Luminous Mysteries prayed on Thursdays.
The Rosary of the Virgin Mary… still remains, at the dawn of this third millennium, a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life, which, after two thousand years, has lost none of the freshness of its beginnings and feels drawn by the Spirit of God to “set out into the deep” (duc in altum!) in order once more to proclaim, and even cry out, before the world that Jesus Christ is Lord and Saviour, “the way, and the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6), “the goal of human history and the point on which the desires of history and civilization turn”.
St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, Introduction
It is very interesting to know that the celebration of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary was instituted following the victory by the Spanish Armada over the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto Bay on October 07, 1571. That decisive naval victory attributed to the praying of the Rosary ended the push towards Europe by the powerful Moslem Ottomans. That would be repeated less than a hundred years later at Manila Bay in 1646 when the Protestant Dutch navy retreated unable to break the defenses of the combined Spanish and Filipino forces who placed themselves under the patronage of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. Following their victory at the La Naval de Manila, the surviving soldiers walked barefoot to the Santo Domingo Church then in Intramuros.
There are so many other stories of how devotion to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary have led to many kinds of victories in various battles – not only in wars but also in plagues and diseases and other crises – waged by Christians both as a nation and as individuals not because the Blessed Virgin Mary is a “fighter” like a warrior but more of a woman of peace, a disciple par excellence of Jesus Christ.
The family that prays together,
a world at prayer is a world at peace.
- Venerable Fr. Patrick Peyton
What makes Our Lady of the Holy Rosary so unique in fighting all kinds of battle in life is the path she takes, the path of Jesus Christ which is the path of peace. Here we find how though the Rosary is Marian in character, it is in essence Christocentric.
…to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who “is our peace”, since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” (Eph 2:14).
St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #6
Jesus had told us that the peace he gives us is not like the peace of the world but a peace that is won out of love, not of violence and power. Mary as Mother of Jesus offers us the most intimate and incomparable model in contemplating Christ the Prince of Peace, his very person, his words and teachings that leads into inner peace within each person first.
And that is what every mystery of the Rosary teaches us: we remember not just by going back to the past but by making present anew Jesus Christ in the many events of his life relevant with us today because they are very similar with our own experiences.
When we contemplate the Joyful Mysteries, we realize that real joy comes from welcoming and accepting, sharing and finding Jesus who comes to us in the most ordinary ways. In the Sorrowful Mysteries, we find in whatever suffering we find ourselves into, Jesus Christ went through it all first for us, assuring us he continues to be with us even in death that leads us to the Glorious Mysteries of Easter. In these mysteries that end with the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth, we are reminded and assured of our only “destiny” in life — to be back in the presence of God in heaven with Mary.
Mary in the Holy Rosary reveals to us that our fulfillment in life is found only in her Son Jesus Christ, the light of the world in whom everything must be seen and considered. All the rough edges, the dullness and darkness within us are dispelled when seen in the light of Jesus Christ. And that is why we find in the Luminous Mysteries the most “scriptural” part of the Rosary. According to St. John Paul II, though the gospels were silent about the presence of Mary in these Luminous Mysteries, it is most likely she was there present in silence, something so rare these days as we live our lives in the glitz and glamour of social media like Facebook and Instagram.
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most unique battle man has ever fought, not only because the enemy is not seen and have made such visibly tremendous impact to our way of life in a global scale like World War II; it happened in the most unusual way that attacked and disturbed our inmost being as human persons desiring peace right in our hearts.
It exposed the sickness we have all been afflicted with, the lack of love, a love that is like the love of Jesus Christ willing to sacrifice, willing to forgive, willing to let go simply because of loving someone more than one’s self.
We have been in chaos within, longing for peace and love that have remained elusive because we have always been busy with everything except with God and our true selves. Long before we have adopted social distancing, we have long been distant from each other, even with those we live with in our homes – so cold and without love. Meals have become needs to feed one’s body, not as events to share one’s self with others as more and more people are getting used to eating by themselves, with cellphones beside them. Everybody is complaining about the face masks and face shields we have to wear without realizing when was the last time we really had a good look at each one’s face as a brother and a sister in Christ, an image and likeness of God, a person to be loved and cherished?
In praying the Rosary meditating in silence its mysteries, we not only discover the mystery of God but most of all our own mystery of being a part of his grand design and plan. That is why we feel anxious and fearful all of a sudden because death has become truer and closest to us in this time of the pandemic when “resting in peace” has become so common. And we know so well we have not loved enough!
By praying the Rosary, its beads make us enter the rhythm of life once again, that it is not just temporal and material but also eternal and spiritual. With Mary, the Rosary enables us to be conformed to Christ which is the very essence of Christian spirituality.
In the spiritual journey of the Rosary, based on the constant contemplation – in Mary’s company – of the face of Christ, this demanding ideal of being conformed to him is pursued through an association which could be described in terms of friendship. We are thereby enabled to enter naturally into Christ’s life and as it were to share his deepest feelings.
The Rosary mystically transports us to Mary’s side as she is busy watching over the human growth of Christ in the home of Nazareth. This enables her to train us and to mold us with the same care, until Christ is “fully formed” in us (cf. Gal 4:19). Never as in the Rosary do the life of Jesus and that of Mary appear so deeply joined. Mary lives only in Christ and for Christ!
St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae, #15
I have been wondering why despite our many prayers and Masses, why have we not conquered COVID-19 yet? How many rosaries do we have to pray before God answers our prayers for a cure to corona virus?
Perhaps, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is reminding us today that the problem with COVID-19 is not just medical but deeply spiritual, calling us to be conformed in the person of Jesus Christ that calls for many battles within us against our pride, selfishness, painful past and memories, vices and addictions, so many other negativities that please our senses but leave us empty and lost because they all lack love from which peace springs forth.
Take that Rosary again, learn from Mary that true blessedness is in believing that the words of God will be fulfilled (Lk.1:45) in us by welcoming Jesus, sharing Jesus, and becoming like Jesus in love like his Mother. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog
Wednesday, Memorial of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, 07 October 2020
Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Luke 11:1-4
Today, O God our Father, as we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, we hear one of the most beautiful requests from your Son Jesus Christ. Who else can teach us so well how to pray but him, the Son of God?
Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your Kingdom come.”
In calling you “Our Father”, Jesus had taught us the basic truth and reality of every prayer that it is never alone nor solitary but always implies a community, a family — that we are all called and gathered to be one in you, O God.
And in giving us his own Mother to be our Mother too, Mary became our constant reminder of the importance and need to pray always to you God our Father, coming to us in our darkest moments like at the Battle of Lepanto Bay more than 400 years ago today.
By praying the Holy Rosary, may we learn through Mary to contemplate the face of Jesus Christ so we may be faithful to our call and mission specially in this 24/7 world of continuous action and noise that have left many of us empty and without meaning in life.
The contemplation of Christ has an incomparable model in Mary. In a unique way the face of the Son belongs to Mary. It was in her womb that Christ was formed, receiving from her a human resemblance which points to an even greater spiritual closeness. No one has ever devoted himself to the contemplation of the face of Christ as faithfully as Mary. The eyes of her heart already turned to him at the Annunciation, when she conceived him by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the months that followed she began to sense his presence and to picture his features. When at last she gave birth to him in Bethlehem, her eyes were able to gaze tenderly on the face of her Son, as she “wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger” (Lk2:7).
St. John Paul II, Rosarium Virginis Mariae (2002), paragraph 10
Through her intercession, may we all be like St. Paul “on the right road in line with the truth of the Gospel” (Gal. 2:14). Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September 2020
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31 || + || John 19:25-27
Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, in giving us the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother too, to join us and accompany us in this life journey especially when there are pains and sufferings like when she stood by you at the foot of the Cross on that Good Friday.
As we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember also and pray for all the women in our lives, specially our mother and sisters, the wife of every spouse, our teachers, the nuns, and all those women who somehow “completed” our lives.
Because of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the word “woman” became so noble and wonderful again after it was marred by sin with the fall of the first woman, Eve.
But what is so striking with Mary and the word “woman” is how she was addressed in that word in the fourth gospel, beginning at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:4) that comes to full circle at the foot of the cross.
When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there 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.
Lord Jesus and Mother Mary, I pray for all the women of the world, especially for those who stood by their men and children in times of trials and sufferings.
There at your crucifixion where everything was so sad with the stark realities of human sufferings and death, Mary and the other women present gave some breath of life and hope to the scene.
With those faithful women led by the Blessed Mother around you at the foot of the Cross, your Passion O Lord, had a peaceful and calming ending, leading to your joyful and glorious Resurrection.
Their love and devotion, and compassion remained intact before you, O Lord after you had died. Is this also the reason you first appeared to women too on Easter? Beautiful.
These are exactly the same things the many women in the world and in our lives do when our chips are down like during this pandemic.
It is always the women who bring out the extra jolts and sparks needed to restart our lives, to jumpstart us when we are all down and desperate. Like your Mother Mary, Lord, most women are our greatest sources of inner strength and courage, and faith to forge on in this life.
How sad that we often forget to thank them and worst, neglect to recognize their presence and dignity as persons. May we imitate you, dear Jesus that in your dying moments, you remembered to entrust your mother to your beloved disciple to look after her.
O dearest Mother Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, please pray for the women we love, the women we have forgotten, the women we have used and abused for their kindness to us; so many women are crying in pain alone, some of them have been mourning for a long time after losing a beloved child or husband, a friend and a sibling, parents and those dearest to them. Soothe their pains, our Lady of Sorrows, a great woman of faith, woman of calmness, a woman for everyone. Amen.