Avoiding factions

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

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

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

The power & wisdom of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Twenty-first Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 26 August 2022
1 Corinthians 1:17-25   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 25:1-13
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2015.
Praise and glory to you,
God our Father for this weekend;
we have passed a week of many discomforts
from the opening of classes,
followed by a strong typhoon,
a weak market and economy
marred by all kinds of shortages
but, here we are, Lord, still alive,
still well amid all the sufferings
and trials because of your gift of
FAITH.
Thank you, dear God, for this
wondrous gift of FAITH brought
to us, sustained in us, made beloved
in us by your Son Jesus Christ 
in his Cross.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but for those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 
1 Corinthian 1:22-25
Many times, we take our faith
for granted without realizing it is
one of your most important gifts
to us; it is in faith where everything
in this life begins:  we cannot hope,
we cannot love if we do not believe!
And this faith as gift has come to us,
continues to be poured upon us
by its most beautiful sign, the CROSS.
Teach us to be wiser, dear Jesus,
like those virgins in your parable,
to embrace and love your CROSS;
it is not all suffering and pain but
gain and addition in life of more
wisdom and more power so that we
can be more loving and merciful,
kind and forgiving, generous and caring
in your most Holy Name.
Amen.

Shrewd as serpents, simple as doves

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Baccalaureate Mass of Senior High School,
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 08 July 2022
Photo by author at Mt. Nebo, Jordan overlooking the Holy Land, May 2019. Modern sculpture of the bronze serpent God told Moses to erect in the desert so that those bitten by snakes would be healed when they looked up to it, a prefiguration of Christ himself.

Congratulations, our dear graduates of Senior High School. You are so blessed today because our gospel is like a valedictory address given to you by no less than our Lord Jesus Christ whose message is so simple, yet so rich and so timely during this COVID-19 pandemic.

Jesus said to his Apostles: “Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

You are the modern apostles of Jesus Christ.

You are so special, Senior High Batch 2022. The past two years are the most difficult in modern history, and probably doubly difficult for young people like you who were supposed to be outside learning and discovering more about life beyond the classrooms but COVID-19 kept you grounded.

But, here you are! Nakatapos din! – despite the poor internet services, the boring online classes, and limited personal interaction with others, you are graduating, soon fulfilling your dreams to become doctors, engineers, nurses, teachers.

Truly as Jesus Christ had said in the gospel today, you are being sent like sheep among wolves, a very wild world indeed where evil and darkness seem to prevail especially when you listen to all the news of missing ladies or even adults.

Photo by author, view of the desert to the Holy Land as seen from Jordan, May 2019.

I refuse to use that expression when somebody graduates, “welcome to the real world”. Was there any moment in your lives that was not real like, kunwa-kunwarian lang? What you went through in senior high was real, what you have experienced were all true. Lahat ay totohanang buhay especially those two years of isolation and lockdowns which may continue for the next three or five years according to experts.

Life will be more difficult in college but most challenging for growth and maturity.

Yes, there are so many dangers from within and from the outside but trust in God for in him alone can we find life and fulfillment as the prophet Hosea reminds us in the first reading today.

Thus says the Lord: “Let him who is wise understand these things, let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble.”

Hosea 14:10

What Hosea is telling us is to be wise, to be filled with wisdom which begins in having that holy fear of the Lord. Handle life with prayer. As I would always tell you, “study hard, work harder, pray hardest”. In God alone can we find meaning and fulfillment in life.

Photo by author, St. Catherine’s Monastery near Mt. Sinai, Egypt, May 2019.

Maybe you are wondering why Jesus is asking us to be shrewd like the serpents. As you must have learned in world literature and world history, the ancient peoples like the Egyptians have always considered snakes as symbols of wisdom. But what I wish to focus more is the revision of the older translation of this passage from “be wise as the serpents” to “be shrewd as the serpents”.

Being shrewd is often mistaken into a negative trait because it suggests a practical wisdom that does not necessarily look deeply into things at all but wily and conscious of its personal interests.

That’s according to the late Dr. S. I. Hayakawa of the the veritable Reader’s Digest guide to synonyms, “Use the Right Word”. However, Dr. Hayakawa explained that the word “shrewd” is often used to indicate an unusual mental agility or perceptiveness of taking advantage of hidden opportunities. It speaks of a more penetrating kind of wisdom that is why the new versions of bible of “be shrewd as the serpents” is more precise and exact.

In that sense, too, you are all shrewd as the serpents during your senior high school because you were able to perceive hidden opportunities during the pandemic that you strived in your studies. Believe me, you are well-equipped for life because of the online classes during the pandemic, teaching you, showing you so many opportunities our generation had never seen.

Here is the more interesting part of being shrewd like the serpents….

From reddit.com.

The snake is the only one in the animal kingdom that regularly sheds off its skin, a sign of renewal. In Filipino, we call that “paghuhunos ng balat”. During Lent, we hear the elders telling us “maghunos dili” – literally to shed some of one’s self or pride and ego. In short, be converted.

The snake is shrewd because it sheds its skin so often, renewing itself, adjusting and adapting to new situations.

And that is true wisdom – adjusting and adapting to new situations. Most of all, spiritually speaking, it is a daily conversion in God.

Conversion is not changing our personality, like a very courageous person becoming timid or a talkative person becoming silent. Conversion means having new directions in our selves. Perfect example is St. Paul who used to persecute Christians but upon conversion, became the missionary of the gospel of Christ. He was practically the same person still – zealous and full of enthusiasm but no longer in persecuting Christians but promoting Christ.

Conversion is being like the snake in shedding its skin, letting go of the old ways and self to be renewed – still a snake but a better snake after each shedding of skin. That’s being shrewd like the serpents: of the many lessons taught to us by this COVID-19 pandemic, one of the leading lessons is the need for us to adapt and adjust when things are not going good.

And you are the experts in this because during those two years of online classes – for better and for worst – you must have perfected the art of adjustments, of adaptation. Nobody ever expected or even predicted the things that happened in 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic is so unique, even surreal. We were so used to our comfort zones, so used to what has always been long before but COVID forced us to abandon that frame of mind and be like serpents, to adjust to situations by shedding off our skins, our pride to be more attuned with the environment to eventually emerge victorious. And we are all better now, especially you who are graduating soon!

Of course, you do not have to adjust and adapt to everything. You have to weigh things carefully. That is why Jesus balanced his instruction to be shrewd as the serpents with being simple as doves. We do not change and renew ourselves for the sake of adapting to new situations; we renew and adapt to become better persons, to become holier.

Remember, you are like the sheep – symbol of humility and holiness – being sent among wolves.

Be shrewd as the serpents and simple as doves. God bless you more in your college studies, Batch 2022!

Walking our talk

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourteenth Week of Ordinary Time, 08 July 2022
Hosea 14:2-10   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 10:16-23
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD in France, March 2022.
Another week is closing,
another brand new week coming
but here I am, O God, still undecided,
dilly-dallying when to follow you,
when to change my ways,
when will I ever be true
in walking my talk; this time,
may I take with me my words
of contrition, of decision to turn
away from sin and follow your path
in Jesus Christ your Son.

Thus says the Lord: Return, O Israel, to the Lord, your God; you have collapsed through your guilt. Take with you words, and return to the Lord, say to him, “Forgive all iniquity, and receive what is good, that we may render as offerings the bullocks from our stalls.”

Hosea 14:2-3
Grant me, O Lord, 
the courage to be wise as the serpent 
and gentle as the dove in this world 
so filled with wolves and other
predators out for a kill with 
their seductive temptations
to rule and dominate; may I always
have the presence of mind to think
what is fair and just, true and good
that I may not be tempted to take 
shortcuts in life; inspire me to innovate
and be creative in proclaiming 
and living out the gospel of Jesus 
in this highly modern and complex
world; most of all, keep me faithful
to you, to always walk your path
for you are the way, the truth and 
the life.

Let him who is wise understand these things; let him who is prudent know them. Straight are the paths of the Lord, in them the just walk, but sinners stumble in them.

Hosea 14:10
There is no other way
to life, Lord, except you 
and this is the reason why
so many want to remove you,
to delete you from life, from
the world so that they can do
what is most pleasing to themselves
without realizing nor admitting
the collapse and slow death
they are experiencing.
Amen.

Coming to Jesus, coming to others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Third Week of Easter, 05 May 2022
Acts 8:26-40   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 6:44-51
Photo by author, 2021.
Praise and thanksgiving
to you, most loving Lord,
Jesus Christ, in making us 
come to you daily!

Jesus said to the crowds: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written in the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listen to my Father and learns from him comes to me.”

John 6:44-45
Grant me the courage
and docility of Philip your
Apostle whose feast we
celebrated yesterday to 
always come to you, ready 
to "get up and set out" 
wherever you send us.
May we spend time, 
make time daily to come to you,
Jesus, to put into practice
that grace of the Father to
meet and experience you in
prayers and the sacraments
so we may be filled with your 
presence and mercy.
And wisdom.

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply, “I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this? About himself, or about someone else?” Then Philip opened his mouth and, beginning with this Scripture passage, he proclaimed Jesus to him.

Acts 8:34-35
First, let us come to you,
Jesus so that we may come
to share you with others.
Amen.

Keep my heart in you, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Scholastica, Virgin, 10 February 2022
1 Kings 11:4-13   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Mark 7:24-30
Photo from ABS-CBN News, medical frontliners making the heart sign, 2020.
Your words today, O Lord,
invite me to examine closely
where is my heart especially after all
the triumphs and gains I have had
lately, after being showered with
your many blessings.

When Solomon was old, his wives had turned his heart to strange gods, and his heart was not entirely with the Lord, his God, as the heart of his father David had been.

1 Kings 11:14
Keep my heart entirely yours, Lord;
I am afraid that like Solomon,
I may have also been like him
with my heart being stolen from you
by the very blessings you have
showered me with like health
and some degrees of comforts,
triumphs and successes.
I do not ask for more pains and
sufferings, dear Jesus; just keep 
my heart closest to you always
like that Syrophoenician woman in
the gospel who begged you to heal
her daughter possessed by the devil;
she was witty and wise in her answer
to you:  "Lord, even the dogs under
the table eat the children's scraps"
(Mark 7:28) that you have her child
healed. 
So many times, Lord, in our wisdom
and intelligence, we rationalise 
everything to justify what we want
and what we do like Solomon;
so many times, Lord, our wisdom
could not prevent our being ruled
by our hearts and selfish interests that
we keep on doing what we know is not
right and sinful; so many times, Lord, 
we try other paths forgetting 
that you are the only WAY, 
the TRUTH and the LIFE.
Help me imitate St. Scholastica, 
the twin sister of St. Benedict,
whose minds and hearts have 
always remained united in you,
dear Jesus that even in the end
of their lives, not even death could
separate their bodies as they shared 
just one grave.  Amen.

Living on the inside

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week V, Year II in Ordinary Time, 09 February 2022
1 Kings 10:1-10   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Mark 7:14-23
Photo by author, 2018.
Praise and glory to You, 
God our Father in heaven
that you see more what is inside 
than what is outside, 
what is essential 
than what is accidental. 
Purify and cleanse my heart,
Lord, so I may also see beyond 
what is external, what is on the surface
and everything that is superficial;
give me the drive to probe 
deeper into the heart to see
the many wonders of every person 
instead of criticizing and judging everyone
like the Queen of Sheba who travelled far 
to verify for herself King Solomon’s wisdom.
Bless me with courage
to face and change things 
not pleasing within me like 
“evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, 
murder, adultery, greed, malice, 
deceit, licentiousness, envy, 
blasphemy, arrogance, folly” (Mark7:21).
It is only with a clean heart, 
dear God through Jesus your Son
when we are truly good and wise 
because it is YOU, not us, 
who must be seen and eventually 
be praised by those who can see 
the inner reality like the Queen of Sheba 
who told King Solomon, 
“Blessed be the Lord, your God, 
whom it has pleased to place you 
on the throne of Israel… 
to carry out judgment and justice” 
(1Kings10:9). 
Moreover, it is only those
who live inside your heart, 
Lord, like the psalmist today
who can murmur with ones lips 
your wisdom and majesty.  Amen.

New year, new directions

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday After January 1, Epiphany of the Lord, 02 January 2022
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><]]]'> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><]]]'> Matthew 2:1-12
From Google.com.

Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is called EDSA for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.  Its namesake is a famous scholar from the province of Rizal whose name means “manifestation” or “appearance” from the Greek epiphanes

EDSA today may be considered as the epiphany of everything wrong in the country, from government inefficiency to people lacking in discipline and patriotism.  Mention the word EDSA and you feel sad and gloomy all of a sudden.

But, the Epiphany we celebrate today brings joy and jubilation because it is the manifestation of the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ to the pagans symbolized by the magi from the East.

After the octave of Christmas on January 1, Epiphany reminds us on this joyous season of Christmas that while deep within each one of us is a natural search or inclination for God, it is actually God who looks for us and eventually finds us.

It is always a grace from God that we desire him and his grace is doubled even tripled when we are like the magi who search and follow God in his “epiphanies”!

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3
The Magi with baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Source: Henry Siddons Mowbray / Public domain

Nobody really knows for sure where and who were those magi who looked and came for the Child Jesus at Bethlehem. They are called kings as attested from our first reading, “Rise up in splendor!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you… Nations shall walk by your light; kings by your shining radiance.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is.60:1, 4, 6). 

From this part of Isaiah’s prophecy we also got that picture of the three wise men traveling as kings from the farthest parts of the world of that time riding on camels to show how everyone, from the most most powerful to the simplest of men and women of the world recognize Jesus as the King of Kings. 

At the start of this new year 2022, our third year in this COVID-19 pandemic, we are invited to be wise like the magi to search for that Bethlehem where we could find rest and comfort, solace and consolation in the newborn king Jesus Christ. It takes a wise person to search for Jesus – and a wiser person to lead others to Him! 

The Epiphany of the Lord reminds us that Christ came to the world to be the fulfillment of everyone and He had become human like us in everything except sin so we can find Him easily right within us, there in our hearts where he is born everyday, where he dwells.

Every new year, every day is a new beginning in Jesus, a day of his epiphany leading us to him. The wise men coming from the East where the sun rises show us Epiphany as a new beginning in our lives, representing our inner journey in life to find and follow Jesus Christ. 

From Google.com.

It is said life is a journey; but, as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. So often in life, it is really the trip that matters most, the people we journey with as companions that make our life so meanignful.

What matters most in life is we keep on following Jesus Christ our light, our star.  That is direction, where He is leading us.  It never stops.  We just keep on following Him until we reach our final destination in heaven for we are all “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). 

This direction we have to follow in life never stops for the discovery of God is not the end but the beginning of a journey.  And in this journey in Jesus Christ, we do not simply go as followers but are expected to eventually become believers too.  Matthew noted at the end of the gospel today how the magi “departed for their country by another way” (Mt. 2: 12) to show how they have become believers eventually of Christ.  Their lives have changed and must have never been the same as before after finding Jesus because they have believed, so unlike Herod and the experts at Jerusalem who knew everything about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem but refused to believed him. 

This is the danger with us today:  many Christians today are mere followers but not wise enough to be believers of Christ.

We all dream to be fulfilled in life.  And every lofty dream is always from above, from God as Matthew told us this Christmas the dreams of Joseph and now the dream of the magi.  It is said that those who dream with their eyes wide open are the real dreamers, the trailblazers who change the world.  That is because they did not only believe in their dreams and with themselves but most of all, they believed in God. 

On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, He is inviting us to dream and believe so that we may live fully in Him.  Every day is a new beginning to search and follow and believe Jesus Christ our light.  Today we are given with over 350 days to begin anew in Jesus.  Be wise.  Search Him.  Follow Him.  Believe Him.  Happy Epiphany of the Lord! Amen. 

Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauyan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

A prayer for 2022

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Sixth Day within the Octave of Christmas, 30 December 2021
1 John 2:12-17  ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 2:36-40
Photo by author, 18 November 2021 at San Fernando, Pampanga.

When they had fulfilled all the prescriptions of the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their town of Nazareth. The child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.

Luke 2:39-40
God our loving Father, 
we are now about to complete 
another blessed year to meet 
another one more blessed;
thank you for the year 2021, 
for its bountiful grace and lessons
learned; for the gift of life, for the gift
of family and friends still with us.
Thank you also for all the pains and
hurts specially brought by COVID-19
to many of us; at least, we have 
realized our weaknesses and most of
all, the we love and needed to be loved.
And so, dear God, we pray like your
Son Jesus Christ after being presented
to the Temple, we may not only grow strong
physically and materially in 2022 
but most of all, that we may grow spiritually
to be filled with your wisdom so we may grow 
deeper in your favor; teach us to be like 
your prophetess Anna to cultivate a deep 
prayer life, seeking and patiently waiting 
for your voice and directions
to take in life this coming new year.
Let us heed St. John the Beloved's
warning that "the world and its enticement
are passing away.  But whoever does the
will of God remains forever" (1Jn.2:17).
Amen.

Advent is humility before God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, 14 December 2021
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 21:28-32
Photo by Gelo Nicolas Carpio, 2020.
God our loving Father,
teach us humility and simplicity
in life in this time of the year 
when temptations are so strong,
even irresistible to be proud
and powerful and sufficient in
things we need that we forget you
in the people around us.
As we celebrate the memorial of
St. John of the Cross who was so 
eloquent both in his words and in deeds, 
help us to choose always in finding the 
path of Jesus Christ on the Cross which
for him is the "highest wisdom attainable 
in this life".

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

St. John of the Cross, Office of Readings, 14 December
In both the first reading and
the gospel today, your words
assure us, dear God, that it is never
too late to start listening to you and
to follow your Son Jesus Christ in
his life of simplicity and dedication
to the well-being of others.
Teach us to be "a people humble
and lowly" before you, O God, who
"shall do no wrong and speak no lies,
who would pasture and couch your 
flocks with none to disturb them" 
(Zephaniah 3:12-13).  Amen.