Imitating, praying with Mary in 2023

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, Eighth Day in the Octave of Christmas, 01 January 2023
Numbers 6:22-27 ><}}}}*> Galatians 4:4-7 ><}}}}*> Luke 2:16-21

A blessed Merry Christmas everyone! Our Mass on this first day of 2023 is not for the new year but in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God because her Son Jesus Christ is true God and true Man. Of all human beings, she is therefore the best model for us to follow in welcoming every new year.

First thing we notice with Mary is her prayerful silence at the birth of Jesus Christ, the very new year in humanity when henceforth, time is reckoned in relation with his birth that is why we have those initials BC for “Before Christ” and AD for “Anno Domini” or “Year of the Lord”.

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.

Luke 2:16-19

I come from the town of Bocaue in Bulacan known as the “fireworks capital” of the Philippines and I have never liked our manner of ushering every new year with a bang. Even the Chinese are ashamed at how we overdo our fireworks and firecrackers during the new year. What I hate most are the human lives lost every year because of pyrotechnics.

Life always begins in silence. Destruction comes in loud noises just like what we do every new year with fireworks and firecrackers. It is Jesus Christ who drives out the evil spirits from our lives and the world since he came to the world more than 2000 years ago and here we are, calling all the evil spirits back!

In my former parish, we used to have a Holy Hour after our Mass of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God in the evening of December 31. Like Mary, we pray in silence to Jesus to thank him for all that have happened the past year, for everything, whether good or bad.

Let Jesus come and dwell in our hearts tonight and tomorrow. Pray with your family and loved ones. Pray by yourself.

Secondly, like Mary, let us treasure all our memories of the past year in our hearts, both the good and the bad ones especially the people who have touched us and hurt us too.

Silence is the door through which God enters our heart and soul, enabling us to have that meaningful awareness of Jesus in us and among us, helping us to see the larger picture of life with its many realities. One of my favorite writers, T.S. Eliot wrote in his very long Four Quartets that “tragedy occurs when we have the experience but miss the meaning”. Very true!

Most of all, it is in silence where we grow deeper in faith, hope and love of God because silence is the domain of trust. That is why saints and monks and every holy person of high level of spirituality are lovers of silence. Silent people are the most trusting ones to God and to others.

I have been dwelling this week on that scene when the shepherds came with all their noises and talks while Mary sat in silence along with St. Joseph, the patron saint of silence.

What was Mary thinking or praying? Was she asking for a better year in their lives after all the trials and difficulties she and Joseph have in having Jesus?

I don’t think she prayed for a better year ahead like many of us wishing in Facebook that 2023 would be better.

If we have Jesus Christ in us like Mary, every year, every day is always the best. If I may say so, every today becomes the least joyous days of our lives in Christ. Read and pray the gospel to see how the lives of Mary and all the other disciples went through the most wonderful and spectacular experiences in having Jesus.

Like Mary after giving birth to Jesus, she never prayed nor wished for a better year despite her being the Mother of God because nothing is better than living each day in Christ our Savior.

It is useless and futile to get all those lucky charms nor consult fortune tellers on what is in store for us this 2023. Mary knew nothing at all what was in store for her in giving birth to Jesus, much less in following him as his foremost disciple. All she was certain at that time time was the name to be given to her child, Jesus that means “God is my savior”.

Jesus is still and will always be our only certainty in life – day in, day out in every year. Let us not lose Jesus. Like Mary, let us treasure him in our hearts where he dwells. Let us pray with Mary:

Lord Jesus Christ,
on this passing of 2022
as 2023 comes, make me silent
in you, trusting you like your Mother
and our Mother too, 
the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Thank you for everything; 
despite the many disappointments
and failures, trials and sufferings, 
hurts and pains amidst the more 
joys and laughters I have had from
people you have given me this 2022,
teach me to trust you more that everything
in the past year indicates more better days are ahead!
I pray only for one thing this new year
as your disciple, Lord:
like Mary, let me love and trust you more,
never let me leave you,
keep me at your side even 
at your Cross.  Amen.

Christmas is being grateful

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Seventh Day of Christmas Novena, 22 December 2022
1 Samuel 1:24-28     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 1:46-56

Christmas is a call for us to be grateful. Only a grateful heart can truly be emptied and be filled with Jesus Christ. A heart that truly praises God is first of all a grateful heart. Mary’s song, the Magnificat is a both a song of thanksgiving and gratitude to God for all his wondrous blessings to her and to mankind in general.

Yesterday we heard how Mary hastily went to visit her cousin Elizabeth in Judea to share with her the Good News she had received, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. After being praised by Elizabeth, Mary responded today not by praising her cousin as we would always do; she instead praised and thanked God.

Again, we hear today wonderful stories of women – not just two like yesterday but three! – who were so blessed by God, thanking and praising God for blessing them with sons: Hannah in the first reading for her son Samuel who became one of Israel’s greatest prophet, Mary pregnant with Jesus Christ while visiting her cousin Elizabeth who was sixth month pregnant with John.

See how Hannah as a sign of her gratitude to God through the priest Eli who promised to pray for her to conceive a son gave Samuel at a very young age to serve in the Lord’s altar. The same is true with Mary in singing the Magnificat when she reaffirmed her fiat to God, of being his ever-faithful handmaid doing his will always.

“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.”

Luke 1:46-49
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022, Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Gratitude is a virtue that works great wonders for everyone because it makes us live in the present moment. A grateful person is one who lives in the here and now, not in the past nor in the future. Look at the structure of Mary’s Magnificat that is in the present tense.

When our heart is filled with gratitude, we have no time to complain and nurse old wounds and pains in the past but simply learn from them and move on with life. Living in the present moment means making things happen, working hard on our dreams and aspirations to become a reality, exactly what the Magnificat is telling us! How are we going to continue God’s wondrous works like Mary? By remaining faithful to Jesus Christ all the way to his Cross on Good Friday.

People who refuse to be grateful in life are busy wishful thinking of how things should be or would be, always looking at the future as a fantasy that would just pop out of nowhere instead of working for it in the present moment.

Unknown to many, gratitude is the fount of all good vibes in life, enabling us to be more positive than negative. It helps us accept the reality we are into – whether it is good or bad.

And that is when we start growing and maturing as persons when we learn to accept our present realities.

Most of all, gratitude disposes us to more blessings and grace from God because a thankful heart is always the one that seeks relationships, with God and with others. See that Mary did not sing her Magnificat while with the angel Gabriel after announcing the birth of Christ nor after he had left, right in the comforts of her home. Mary went in haste to Judea to celebrate and thank God’s gifts with her cousin Elizabeth.


People who go out of their way to say thank you, 
to express gratitude are person-oriented. 
They see more the persons 
not just the kind deeds done to them 
and beautiful gifts given them. 

Very often, people thank us priests especially for praying for them, enlightening and guiding them. That is why people lavish us with all kinds of gifts. Every time people thank me, I tell them, “kami po ang dapat magpasalamat sa inyo kasi lumalago kami kay Kristo!” In my 24 years as a priest, I have realized that the more faithful we are in serving God through his people, the more we are blessed and hence, the more we must be grateful!

People who go out of their way to say thank you, to express gratitude are person-oriented. They see more the persons not just the kind deeds done to them and beautiful gifts given them. When we say thank you, when we let others know of how grateful we are, we recognize their personhood that is why we reach out to them, trying to connect with them and befriend them. Or, to keep our ties alive and strong. As the old song says, “People who need people are the luckiest people in the world.”

Remember the ten lepers healed by Jesus Christ on his way to Jerusalem?

Only one returned – a Samaritan – to thank Jesus. He was the only one who was “saved” when Jesus told him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you” (Lk.17:19).

Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

Gratitude is a very practical virtue, “the parent of all virtues” according to the Roman scholar and statesman Cicero. It is the one virtue we need to recapture and reacquire in this time to make through the many challenges and trials this pandemic has brought us. Instead of complaining and being so sorry with the plight we are into due to COVID-19, let us start counting our many blessings in life to see the vast opportunities and lessons this crisis has given us. In fact, the more this pandemic has persisted, the more blessings we can find that we must be thankful too.

Because of the pandemic, we have learned to cherish more one another as we come to value persons and life again more than things. There are so many things we have to be grateful in life during this time of the pandemic, perhaps even more than the sufferings and trials we have gone through as it opened to us new views and perceptions about life itself.

Most of all, it had brought us back to the grounding of our being, to God who is life himself, the source of all good things we have long forgotten and now remember. And rightly praise and thank. That is why I keep on telling everyone, God willed Christmas 2022 falls on a Sunday so we may personally, face-to-face celebrate together. And thank him through the people he has given us! Let us pray:

My soul also proclaims 
your greatness, O Lord Jesus Christ
like Mary your Mother!
Thank you for the gift of life
with all of its pains and hurts
that have strengthened me,
for all the joys that have enriched me.
Most of all, for the call to serve you.
Who am I, O Lord, to be called
and visited by you?
Many times I have failed you
yet you keep on coming, still calling me,
still believing in me, still trusting me.
What else can I say except 
thank you from the bottom of my heart.
As your birthday approaches,
as my gift to you dearest Jesus,
enable me to remain faithful to you
like Mary your Mother and our Mother too
even up to your Cross.  
Here am I, Lord, send me.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022 in Paco, Obando, Bulacan.

More than a visit, Christmas is a visitation!

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Sixth Day of Christmas Novena, 21 December 2022
Song of Song 2:8-14     ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>     Luke 1:39-45
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 20 December 2022.

Did you know that there is a funny story behind that lovely entrance hymn in all our Masses we have been singing since the start of the Advent Season rightly called Halina Jesus, Halina?

According to the story, when Jesus turned seven years old – that’s the seventh Christmas of the world! – the Blessed Mother decided to bake him a beautiful birthday cake. The child Jesus was busy playing with his cousins when his Mother asked him to buy some flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. Of course, the young Messiah obeyed her and went to the store to buy the ingredients for his birthday cake. But, as the Catholic Catechism of the Church attests that Jesus is truly human like us, he suddenly forgot the most important ingredient needed in his cake, the flour. He rushed back home and asked Mama Mary again what was he supposed to buy. This happened thrice that for the third time, Mary was exasperated, wrote it on a piece of paper, telling the child Jesus, “Harina, Jesus, harina!”

For our non-Filipino followers, harina is flour, very close to halina which is come as the song tells us.

Christmas is a story of people, real persons like you and me meeting, encountering God. So far since Sunday we have heard stories of encounters by Joseph, Zechariah and Mary with an angel.  Today, we hear the beautiful encounter between two women so blessed by God, two mothers whose sons would usher in a new beginning of life on earth. 

Mary set out in those days and travelled 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

The Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary to her cousin Elizabeth is in itself a proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ that presents us with the beautiful personages of two women who are “beloved ones of God” as well as “lovers of God.” 

Both of them “believed” in the promised salvation from God through their mysterious maternity, Mary being a virgin while Elizabeth in her being old and barren. 

They both love God so much that they were gifted with exceptional vocations, Elizabeth bore the Precursor of the Lord Himself born by Mary. 

Most of all, both women waited patiently for the coming of the promised salvation in Christ Jesus.

Visit and visitation may seem to be one and the same in the sense that both have a common Latin root word, the verb to see or vidi, videre from which came the word video.  But, a visit is more casual and informal without intimacy because it is just “a passing by” or merely to see.  It is more concerned with the place or the location and site and not the person to be visited.   We say it clearly in Filipino as in “napadaan lang” when it just so happened you were passing by a place and even without any intentions, you tried seeing someone there. 

On the other hand, visitation is more commonly used in church language like when a bishop or priests come to see the parishioners in remote places.  This is the reason a chapel is more known as a visita in our country because that is where priests visit and check on the well-being of people living in areas very far from the parish usually at the town proper.  Aside from being the venue for the celebration of Masses, the visita serves as classroom for catechism classes and other religious even social gatherings in a particular place. 

Thus, visitation connotes a deeper sense in meaning because there is an expression of care and concern among people, a kind of love shared by the visitator/visitor and the one visited like Mary and Elizabeth. 

Visitation is more of entering into someone’s life or personhood as reported by Luke on Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth where Mary “entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth” (Lk.1:40), implying communion or the sharing of a common experience.  In this case, the two women shared the great experience of being blessed with the presence of God in their wombs! 

Visitation, therefore, is a sharing or oneness in the joys and pains of those dear to us.  The word becomes more meaningful when we try to examine its Filipino equivalent which is “pagdalaw” from the root word “dala” that can be something you bring or a verb to bring.  When we come for a visitation, we dala or bring something like food or any gift.  But most of all we bring our very selves like a gift of presence wherein we share our total selves with our time and talents, joys and sadness, and everything to those being visited.  And that is what Mary did exactly in her visitation of Elizabeth where she brought with her the Lord Jesus Christ in her womb, becoming the first monstrance of the Lord as well as His first tabernacle. 

Today we are invited to become like Mary in the visitation of others to bring Christmas and Jesus Himself to others by allowing our very selves, our body, to be the “bringer” or taga-dala of Christ.  The Lord Himself is the highest good we can bring as pasalubong in every visitation we make.  And if we can only be like Mary in our visitations and dealings with one another sharing Jesus Christ, then we also bring with us God’s tenderness and sweetness to others. 

That is why we have to rush, we have to go in haste like Mary for we have the best good of all – Jesus Christ – to share for everyone!

Come, Lord Jesus Christ!
Come in haste like your Mother Mary
so we may also have a visitation of
persons we have forgotten,
we have taken for granted
all these years!
Come into my heart, Jesus,
and let me see my connections
and links with everyone in you!
We do not need so many presents to give,
just our presence is more than enough
for others to experience your coming
especially on this Christmas.
Amen.

Christmas, an overshadowing by God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Fifth Day of Christmas Novena, 20 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022.

I have stopped listening to Christmas carols and music long before the COVID-19 pandemic came. During that time, especially with the sudden spread of Christmas countdowns and early playing of Christmas music, I felt it as the high point of commercialization and trivialization of this blessed celebration.

But when the pandemic came in 2020, I began appreciating Christmas carols again as I longed for something to cheer me up on those days of lockdown. Unfortunately, I never had the time to make a Christmas playlist that as I drive to my Simbang Gabi Masses since last week, I have never sang nor hummed Christmas carols. All I have in my car stereo are my secular music playlist that surprisingly conveyed the Christmas messages of love and faith, family and friends, life and death.

That is the power of music which transcends seasons and celebrations like this old favorite by Don McLean, the Birthday Song which is about his intense experience of love with a lost loved one.

You see I love the way you love me
I love the way you smile at me
I love the way we live this life we're in...
I don't believe in magic but I do believe in you
And when you say you believe in me
There's so much magic I can do

Okay. Call me cheesy. And old.

But what McLean sings is very true. It is like Christmas with its “magical” powers and beauty! What I mean here in the word “magical” to describe Christmas is the sense that it is indeed an event, a reality that happened and continues to happen among us only if we allow the Divine power of God to overshadow us.

If you try to listen to this song, it speaks of an intense love relationship that not even death could separate. McLean claims in his song that his experience was too deep for words. Difficult to express.

Like in the experience of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother.

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:34-35
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

Luke’s choice of the word “overshadowing” evokes a strong sense of power from God, of his personal intervention into humanity. The eternal God entering the temporal. It is something so powerful to show that contrary to usual human thought that God remains in the spiritual realm, here Luke shows us that God is God indeed – omnipotent, all powerful!

The Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) said there are two moments in the life of Jesus that God intervenes directly in the material world: his virginal birth and his resurrection in which Jesus saw no corruption at all. These are totally unacceptable to modern minds because they believe God is concerned only with spiritual things, that God acts only in the spiritual world, not in the material world.

Such kind of thinking is so prevalent among many people these days, and, unfortunately, even among those who profess to believe in God!

When the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her, it meant God personally acting in her, coming to her which she totally welcomed with her fiat.

Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

To be overshadowed by God the Most High means a deep intense presence of the Holy One which is a favorite theme of Luke especially in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is the power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit acting and moving through the apostles that made Jesus so present even if he had ascended into heaven.

Moreover, to overshadowed by God is also deep and transforming divine presence in Mary wherein in her cooperation, the entire human history was radically altered which until now is felt worldwide with our celebration of Christmas itself which the world unfortunately tries to relegate to mere holiday by removing Christ himself.

Unlike in the case of the annunciation of John’s birth to Zechariah yesterday, Mary is here presented as totally absorbed with the event, with her conversation with the angel, God’s messenger. She was totally aware of everything, very present before God, sincere and true. Recall that Zechariah angered the angel yesterday because he challenged God – who else could convince him of the good news if he still refused to believe God had answered their prayers with the angel already in front of him?

Worst was King Ahaz in the first reading who entered into alliance with neighboring kingdoms of Israel while at the same time signing a secret pact with their common enemy, Assyria just to be sure they would not be invaded and conquered. That angered God and eventually led to Israel’s downfall.

But that did not stop God in involving himself with us and human history with Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah or Emmanuel, Jesus Christ who is the God-with-us.

When Isaiah prophesied to King Ahaz about “the child to be born by a virgin”, it was not just meant for the people of Israel at that time about 700 years before Christ’s coming but also for all of us in this time. Isaiah’s prophecy was for all of us to realize that indeed, God had already come, the Virgin had given birth to the Messiah that began the personal entry of God into us, his direct involvement in our lives so that it would finally lead us to fulfillment in him.

This prophecy that had been fulfilled in Jesus through Mary should convince us once and for all that God is true and truly among us.

Like Mary, are we personally engaging with God in Jesus, through Jesus?

If we can just create that sacred space within us to allow Jesus be born right in our hearts, to speak his words of love and belief in us, we could do so many great things like Mary in this world. Or, like Don McLean in his song. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
let me feel your presence in me
like Mary your Mother;
let me believe in your presence,
let me listen to your voice,
to your affirmations
so that I may start living in you,
in your presence,
in your love,
in your kindness.
May I be a sign of your
intense presence in this world
that have relegated you in the clouds
and world of ideas and spirits;
let me be a sign of your transforming presence
in this world that badly needs
healing and mercy,
forgiveness and kindness,
comfort and consolation
amid the many confusions
that keep us all apart from one another
and from you, our Lord and God,
our grounding and destiny.
Amen.
Photo by author, 07 December 2022.

Advent is for God’s surprises

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe, 12 December 2022
Zechariah 2:14-17     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 1:26-38
The original “tilma” of St. Juan Diego at the New Basilica of the Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City. Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual, 2016.
Glory and praise to you,
God our Father in giving us your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior
who was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary
who has become our Mother too!
How lovely that on this month of December
as we celebrate the Season of Advent
in preparation for Christmas, we have two
great feasts of the Blessed Virgin Mary:
the Solemnity of her Immaculate Conception last
December 8 and today, the Memorial of Our Lady of
Guadalupe, Patroness of the Philippines and the Americas.
Mary did not just celebrate Advent;
she lived Advent because she received
Jesus Christ our Lord!
Teach us to receive Jesus wholly like Mary,
dear Father; teach us to be open like
St. Juan Diego to listen and to look at Mary closely
so we may believe in her Son Jesus;
teach us to see more the signs of Christ's
presence in us and among us like the beautiful
image of Guadalupe imprinted on the tilma 
of St. Juan Diego; teach us to find Jesus living,
dwelling among us as he came truly human and 
truly divine into Mary's womb.
How amazing that soon after the coming
of the Spaniards in Mexico and the Americas in general,
the Blessed Mother appeared to a native, St. Juan Diego;
she spoke in his native language and wore clothes
filled with signs and symbols well-known among the Aztecs
that accordingly was the main reason for the rapid
conversion of the peoples there.
How amazing, dear Father, 
as prophesied by Zechariah,
that you truly came to dwell among us
in Jesus Christ in order to relate with us
in the most personal manner,
practically living among us!
This Advent, teach us to believe again, Father;
teach us to trust in you again,
 to allow ourselves to be surprised 
by you again.  Amen.
Statue of St. Juan Diego at the Cathedral of Mexico City; photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual, 2016.

Joy & mercy in the gift of life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, 08 December 2022
Genesis 3:9-15, 20 ><}}}*> Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 ><}}}*> Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Rev. Fr. Gerry Pascual at Palazzo Borromeo, Isola Bella, Stresa, Italia 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
Praise and glory to you, God our Father
for the gift of life, for the gift of salvation
in Jesus Christ through Mary's Immaculate Conception!
Every joy in the gift of life,
in the gift of every person
is also a gift of your great mercy:
wherever there is life,
there is joy,
there is grace,
there is mercy.
How lovely to keep in mind
that "joy" in Hebrew is "raham, rahamin" -
the same word for "womb" that is why
in describing "joy" to his disciples on the night
before he was arrested, Jesus used the
image of a woman in the pangs of childbirth:
"When a woman is in labor,
she is in anguish because her hour 
has arrived; but when she has given birth
to a child, she no longer remembers the pain
because of her joy that a child has been
into the world" (John 16:21).
So many people are sick at this very moment,
some are awaiting death, some are alone;
many people are hungry, barely surviving
in life every day amid the world's waste
of food and water;
many children are dying too without even
seeing the light because they are seen as
burdens to one's dreams and goals,
thinking only of themselves,
of their rights,
of their body.
On this day as we celebrate
the beginning of the coming of Jesus to us
in the Immaculate Conception of his Mother,
remind us anew that every life is from you,
O God:  what must prevail is your will,
your beautiful plans, not ours;
teach us to trust you like Mary.
Loving Father, make our joy complete
in your Son Jesus Christ;
make us realize and experience
the many spiritual blessings you have
bestowed on us in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:3);
let us take a rest today,
rest in the real sense like Sabbath
when we return to you in Paradise
obedient not like Adam and Eve; 
most of all, may we recall in the story of Dimas,
we enter Paradise on the Cross with Jesus when 
amid all pains and sufferings,
like the Blessed Mother Mary staying behind,
we may firmly say to you, 
"I am your servant, O Lord.
Be it done unto me
according to your word."
Amen.
Photo by author, 07 December 2022.

Daily presentation to the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog 
Monday, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 21 November 2022
Revelation 14:1-3, 4-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 21:1-4
Lord Jesus Christ,
as we enter today this final stretch
of the current liturgical calendar,
you gave us the Memorial of the 
Presentation of your Blessed Mother
as an occasion for us to present ourselves
to you fittingly like her.
Help us to always remember your love
and mercy, Lord, so we may remain on track
on your path of humility and obedience
like Mary; may we always remember
your call to holiness and to mission
being sent like you by the Father;
may we always remember like Mary
to be always truthful and clean in our lips.

These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the first fruits of the human race for God and then Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished.

Revelation 14:4-5
Help us imitate, dear Jesus,
that poor widow at the temple area
who gave everything she had - 
"two small coins" - into the treasury box;
grant us the grace to be like her,
to be like your Mother Mary,
to be like your grandparents St. Joachim and St. Anne
who offered their whole lives, 
their whole livelihood to God
because they believed,
they trusted, and hence,
they loved without measure.
Amen.

Hope in heaven is hope for others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed, 02 November 2022
Wisdom 3:1-9 ><}}}}*> Romans 6:3-4, 8-9 ><}}}}*> John 6:37-40
Praise and thanksgiving
to you our loving God and Father
for the grace of life
for the grace of death
for the grace of judgment:
in the end, your love prevails.
Our hope lies in your judgement,
O God and Father because it is
both justice and grace:
justice because you render fairly
to everyone what is due including 
everything we have done but
it is also grace because you know
our weaknesses, our sinfulness:
"The souls of the just are in the hands of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish,
to be dead; and their passing away was thought
an affliction and their going forth from us,
utter destruction.  But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet it is their hope of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them and found them
worthy of himself" (Wisdom 3:1-5).
Thank you, dear Father in sending us your Son
Jesus Christ who had closely linked
your justice and grace in his Passion,
Death and Resurrection we now share
in the hope of being with you in heaven;
as we remember today our faithful departed,
including those who have been forgotten,
we not only hope for ourselves but also
hope for others because we have realized
all the more these November 1 and 2
that no man is an island:  
we are all linked together in Jesus, 
no one lives alone
no one sins alone
no one is saved alone!
On this All Souls' Day
we express to you not only 
our own hope for salvation
but also our hope for other's salvation:
remember those who have died ahead of us,
purify them in the love of Christ
who assured us that "I came down from heaven 
not to do my own will but the will 
of the one who sent me.  And this is 
the will of the one who sent me,
that I should not lose anything
of what he gave me, but that I should 
raise it on the last day.
For this is the will of my Father,
that everyone who sees the Son
and believes in him may have
eternal life, and I shall raise him
on the last day" (John 6:38-40). 
O most holy Virgin Mary,
our Mother who is the "Star of the Sea"
in this journey of life,
lead us safely to Jesus in eternity
especially at the hour of our death.
Amen.
Photo credits:  Top photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in Portugal, October 2022.
Last photo by author, 2019. 

From “dance” to “guidance”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, 105th Year of Final Apparition at Fatima, Portugal, 13 October 2022
Ephesians 1:1-10   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   Luke 11:27-28
Photos from pinterest.com.

Today we commemorate the 105th year of the final apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal where over 70,000 people witnessed the “Miracle of the Sun”.

It was raining the whole previous night until noon of October 13, 1917 when people made up of believers and unbelievers alike with skeptics and hecklers at the sides came to Cova Da Iria to await the Virgin Mary’s reported apparition to three young children, Lucia Santos and her two younger cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto. The Blessed Virgin began appearing to the three children at the site on the 13th of May of that year and had promised to appear for the sixth and final time on that October 13, promising a great miracle to everyone. By noon, she finally appeared to the three children and after conversing with them, the sun “danced” or zigzagged the sky emitting radiant colors before careening down to Earth.

Page from Ilustração Portuguesa, 29 October 1917, showing the people looking at the Sun during the Fátima apparitions attributed to the Virgin Mary. From en.wikipedia.org.

Many people cried in fear, begging for mercy as the spectacular occurrence seemed like the end of the world that nothing of such kind was ever experienced nor recorded in history.

The dancing of the sun lasted for about ten minutes before it stood still, shining brightly with warmth that dried the people and nature soaked in rain the night before until that noon.

From then on, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima grew and spread worldwide until the Church recognized the apparition as authentic so that even its official feast was set on May 13, devotees have kept October 13 very special.

The eldest of the three children, Lucia became a Carmelite nun and provided so many useful information to later investigations and studies of the Fatima apparitions. She died on the 13th of February 2005, a few months ahead of the great St. John Paul II who had a very special devotion to Our Lady of Fatima after surviving an assassination attempt on the 13th of May 1981. Sr. Lucia’s younger cousins, as promised by the Lady to them in one of her apparitions, died earlier and have been canonized as saints recently.

Photo by author, April 2022.

Dance as expression of union

Lately I have been observing with great interest and appreciation how our young generation had been “borrowing” the music we grew up with from the 70’s to the 80’s into new level of dance steps via TikTok that are so coool and grooovy!

From the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive to EWF’s September and Groove Tonight to Patricia Rushen’s Forget Me Nots and Puff Daddy’s spin of Sting’s Every Breath You Take, generation gaps are being bridged, even closed with these endearing dance reels in social media.

Latest video I have been watching over and over these past two weeks is by a group of young Asians dancing to a James Brown 1973 funk song recorded by Fred Wesley & The J.B.’s. that is so funky and spunky. So fantastic! You may catch the fever and get the funky feel in both Instagram and YouTube in the link below.

The choreography is superbly modern and contemporary with dress and colors so 70’s yet as you watch the video, you do not feel lost or alienated because you feel a sense of belonging, of oneness unlike most modern music videos.

From YouTube.com.

Dance is a non-verbal communication that expresses our relationships and social interactions as a people, as a culture and as a society which we refer to as social intercourse. At the same time, dance is, generally speaking in the animal kingdom which includes us humans, the expression of gender roles in mating process or sexual intercourse. Notice how the many dance moves in the 70’s and 80’s expressed the promiscuity wrongly promoted by the so-called sex revolution.

Of course, sex is good, sex is holy.

But, it is more than an act or a part of the body! What the sex revolution of the 70’s until now missed greatly is the fact that sex is the totality of the person. Sex was created by God to bring humans into unity, into a communion and oneness with him and with others within his plan found in the sacrament of marriage. Not just according to human plans like same sex marriage nor union.

That noble union is the deeper meaning of a dance, of dancing – whether with a partner or by one’s self – it is always communicative of our higher aspirations of communion with God and others!

It is perhaps the reason why the sun “danced” on October 13, 1917 – it was God’s longstanding invitation for us mankind to dance with him, to follow his steps as taught to us by his Son Jesus Christ repeated by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima. Notice how in our second reading, it was also the message of St. Paul to us through the Ephesians.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…

Ephesians 1:2-5
Photo from vaticannews.va, 13 May 2017.

Guidance: God + u and i dance in life!

Like during that time of 1917 in Fatima and the whole world, life was very difficult with the First World War still raging in Europe. People could not find meaning as they found the world so chaotic like today with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, wars in various parts of the world, rising costs of living and so many other difficulties and sufferings in life.

But, like St. Paul, the Blessed Mother at Fatima reminded us of an alternative vision of the world found in Jesus Christ, of the need to renew everything in Christ who had “bestowed on us every spiritual blessing” we need in this life. Despite our sinfulness, God still “chose us in Christ to be one in him” here in this life and in eternity, offering us salvation and fulfillment when we turn away from our sins and evil ways to follow Jesus.

If we reflect deeper into the miracle of the sun in Fatima 105 years ago, the great miracle was not really the sun dancing in the sky but how did the three little children so poor without higher form of learning believed in the promise of our Lady of the Rosary, that a great miracle would happen that day?

Clearly, the three children were guided by the Blessed Mother, most especially by the Holy Spirit! It was their faith that was so outstanding that like Mary, they believed the words spoken to them would be fulfilled as our gospel today told us (Lk.11:28) which were the same words spoken by Elizabeth to Mary at the Visitation (Lk.1:45)!

When we allow ourselves to be guided by the Blessed Mother and by the Holy Spirit, miracles happen in our lives: problems and sufferings are overcome, life becomes fruitful and fulfilling in God. And that is the meaning of the word GUIDANCE:

God
U and
I
D
A
N
C
E 
in life!

May we pray to imitate the three children’s faith in Fatima – that of Sr. Lucia, St. Francisco and St. Jacinta so we may follow the GUIDANCE of Jesus Christ with his Mother the Blessed Virgin Mary as we dance our ways into the many difficulties of this life like in 1917. May we dance with Jesus and Mary in prayers and faith, hope and love. Amen. Have a blessed Thursday!

Photo from cbcpnews.net, 13 May 2022, at the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.

To come in peace and goodwill despite the chaos and darkness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, 105th Anniversary of the Last Marian Apparition at Fatima, 13 October 2022
Ephesians 1:1-10 ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> Luke 11:47-54
From cbcpnews.net, 13 May 2022, at the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City.
God our loving Father,
thank you in sending us
your Son Jesus Christ
who in turn gave his own
Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary
as he died on the Cross
to be our Mother too!
How wonderful
that in her last apparition
at Fatima in Portugal
105 years ago today,
she came bringing peace
and good will like when
Jesus was born more than
2000 years ago; it was the 
same message that St. Paul
brought to us through the
Ephesians as he described
Your magnificent plan
for us in Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ…

Ephesians 1:2-5
Forgive us, merciful Father
in the name of Jesus Christ 
Your Son, in refusing to accept
this beautiful offer you have 
given us expressed clearly 
105 years ago today in Fatima,
Portugal by the Blessed Virgin Mary
who introduced herself as 
"the Lady of the Rosary";
despite the miraculous dancing 
of the sun, many still refuse to
believe and heed her call 
to return to You in Jesus Christ
through conversion,
of turning away from sins
and following the path of holiness,
of being filled with You.
Give us the grace that
like Mary in Fatima,
may we show others 
an alternative vision of
the world wherein 
all things are restored in
Jesus Christ by bringing
the light of your truth
against the world's 
darkness of lies and fake news;
like Mary at Fatima
may we lead people back to
you through the Sacraments 
especially the Holy Eucharist and Confession
instead of worshipping 
and adoring the modern gods
of gold and glamor the world 
offers so easily but treacherously.

Purify our devotion to Mary that
is rooted and focused on Christ
so we may instill hope and joy 
to so many people today 
in despair amid the harsh
realities of this life due to
the ongoing pandemic
with the persistent problems
of war and violence, 
poverty and inequalities, 
and lack of respect for life
and dignity of every person
regardless of color, belief,
and gender.
Be patient with us,
God our Father;
with Mary whom you
have sent to us in Fatima,
may we find our way
back to you in Jesus Christ
along with the conversion of
sinners and unbelievers
including our brothers and
sisters who profess to believe
in you but promote a culture
of death, leading a life
of evil and sin contrary to
your vision of living
in communion with you
in Christ.
Amen.
Our Lady of Fatima,
Pray for us!
Photo from pinterest.com.