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.

Fluidity in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Martin of Tours, Bishop, 11 November 2021
Wisdom 7:22-8:1   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 17:20-25
Photo by author, La Union, 2018.
Today O God I am so struck
by your words from the first reading:
"For Wisdom is mobile beyond all
motion, and she penetrates and 
pervades all things by reason of 
her purity.  For she is an aura of 
the might of God and a pure effusion
of the glory of the Almighty; 
therefore, nought that is sullied
enters into her... Indeed, she reaches
from end to end mightily and
governs all things well" 
(Wisdom 7:24-25, 8:1).
What a beautiful description
of Wisdom, of you, dear God!
Someone so fluid, so natural 
like water:  everything flowing
naturally in order - so subtle yet
powerful, hidden but evident and 
felt that so often for those with 
closed minds and closed hearts,
you seem to be so far, even 
unrecognizable.

Asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus said in reply, “The coming of the Kingdom of God cannot be observed, and no one will announce, ‘Look, here it is,’ or, ‘There it is’. For behold, the Kingdom of God is among you.”

Luke 17:20-21
Teach me to be fluid, Jesus,
like St. Martin of Tours who
naturally cut his tunic into two
to share it with a poor beggar
one cold evening; his kindness was
instinctively filled with Wisdom, fluidly
finding you among the least of our
brethren; may we have the same grace
of  St. Martin to find you among the needy
and most specially to look up to heaven
for our soul's journey back to you.
Amen.
St. Martin of Tours, Patron of my hometown Bocaue, Bulacan; photo from the Parish Commission on Social Communication.

Being wise, avoiding sin

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 08 November 2021
Wisdom 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Luke 17:1-6
Photo by author, Israel, 2017.
Thank you dear Jesus 
for the assurance of your
love and understanding 
as well as the fair warning that
"Things that cause sin will 
inevitably occur.  It would be
better for him if a millstone 
were put around his neck and 
he be thrown into the sea than
for him to cause one of these
little ones to sin" (Luke 17:1-2).
I know, Lord, it is not an excuse
but a fact of life that we shall always
be fighting sins and evil while here
on earth as we strive to follow you;
but I know too well, dear Lord, of the
deep pains and sorrows, the widespread 
anguish every kind of scandal brings
to our family and society, most 
specially to the Mother Church.

Love justice, you who judge the earth; think of the Lord in goodness, and seek him in integrity of heart; because he is found by those who test him not, and he manifests himself to those who do not disbelieve him. For perverse counsels separate a man from God, his power, put to the proof rebukes the foolhardy; because into a soul that plots evil wisdom enters not, nor dwells she in a body under debt of sin.

Wisdom 1:1-4
Forgive us, merciful Jesus,
strengthen us to live in wisdom,
keeping our hearts free from "perverse 
thoughts" so that your Holy Spirit of
instruction may fill and guide us to 
keep us from becoming a "skandalon"
or a rock that causes one to fall and sin.
Amen.

Being present with God, in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 October 2021
Romans 1:16-25   ><)))*> = ><)))*> = ><)))*>   Luke 11:37-41
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, 2017, Japan.
Open our eyes 
and our hearts today
to your loving presence, 
God our loving Father!
Make us stop for a while
to feel your presence in us
and among us to experience
true wealth and real wisdom
so unlike with what the world
offers that is always misleading.
Like St. Pau, may we feel that 
deep pride in you who loves us, 
accompanying us in this life,
leading us to fulfillment and joy.

Brothers and sisters: I am not ashamed of the Gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… For what can be known about God is evident to them, because God made it evident to them.

Romans 1:16, 19
So many times,
we have chosen to follow
 the flow of this world,
"claiming to be wise" when in fact,
we have become fools in our own making;
like that Pharisee who had invited
Jesus to dine at his home,
we have become so unaware
of the presence of Christ and have 
become more amazed at finding
faults and criticisms at what is outside
of us, not realizing the need
to look more inside to cleanse our
hearts and souls where you dwell
and see you present in every moment
 especially among others we least expected.
Amen.

God knows what is best

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bonaventure, Bishop and Doctor of the Church, 15 July 2021
Exodus 3:13-20     ><)))*> + <*(((><     Matthew 11:28-30
Photo by author, Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, January 2019.
Your words today, O Lord,
are very encouraging,
so reassuring in these days
when many are languishing
of having that feeling something 
is not right, unable to move
and make progress in life
and in one's self due to this pandemic.
Like your people in Egypt during 
the time of Moses,
we feel alone and abandoned,
trapped and imprisoned.
Therefore, we pray dear God,
that you awaken in us that courage
and deep trust in you
fill us with your very self
or "enthusiasm" from "en-theos"
to forge on in this life amid 
the many darkness and difficulties
we encounter right now
whether at home or at school,
in our office and community
in our country where we have so 
many pharaohs lording over us!
"Yet I know
that the king of Egypt will not
allow you to go unless he is forced.
I will stretch out my hand,
therefore,
and smite Egypt by doing all kinds
of wondrous deed there.
After that he will send you away."
(Exodus 3:19-20)
You really know what is best
for us, O God our loving Father!
Even before any problem happens
or trial comes to each of us,
you have already prepared us
a long time ago how we can handle
or deal with any crisis, even sending us
the right persons who can help us
to overcome every obstacle 
and difficulties that come our way.
Problem is we always turn away from you,
we always forget you.
Jesus said:
"Come to me,
all you who labor
and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you
and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble
of heart; and you will find rest
for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy,
and my burden light."
(Matthew 11:28-30)
Let us come to you,
dear Jesus, in all humility;
like St. Bonaventure whose 
memorial we celebrate today,
may we learn to balance
what we know and what we feel,
of what is in our mind and 
of what is in our heart
so we may follow the path 
to your mysteries of wisdom and love.
Amen.

Agere contra (acting against)

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 09 July 2021
Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 10:16-23
Photo by author, Malagos Garden Resort, Davao City, 2018.
Praise and glory to you, 
God our loving Father;
thank you for another week
thank you for this brand new day
thank you for this gift of life
and thank you for 
reassuring us of your love 
and saving presence.
Then he said:
"I am God, 
The God of your father.
Do not be afraid
to go down to Egypt,
for there I will make you 
a great nation.
Not only will I go down to Egypt
with you; I will also bring you back here,
after Joseph has closed your eyes."
(Genesis 46:3-4)
Many among us, dear Lord
are like Jacob moving to Egypt:
lives are disrupted
routines are broken
due to sickness and other trials in life;
assure them too of your presence
and please, bring them back home
 safe and well.
Keep us faithful to you, Father.
When trials and difficulties come,
we are always shaken
and tempted to find the easy way out;
worst is when things become unbearable,
we plead to you for an end of sufferings
without realizing that is when you are closest
to us in your Son Jesus Christ. 
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.
You will be hated by all
because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end
will be saved."
Please grant us the wisdom
and humility to live our lives 
in true freedom to you, dear God;
to let go of our false securities and 
comfort zones, the "agere contra"
according to St. Ignatius of Loyola
so we may grow truly in you 
who has the final say on everything.  Amen.

Keeping our eyes open

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday in the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, 29 May 2021
Sirach 51:12-20     <*(((><  +  ><)))*>     Mark 11:27-33
Photo by author, Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto chapel, Baguio City, 2019.

Let me join Ben Sirach in praising you today, O God our loving Father as I take his parting words in his beautiful book as my prayer to you too on this blessed and beautiful Saturday:

I thank the Lord and I praise him;
I bless the name of the Lord.
When I was young and innocent,
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer.
I prayed for her before the temple,
and I will seek her until the end...
In the short time I paid heed,
I met with great instruction.
Since in this way I have profited,
I will give my teacher grateful praise.
(Sirach 51:12-14, 16-17)

O dear God, how sad at how so many people these days seek wisdom and knowledge outside of you. They think you have nothing to do with it, without realizing you are all-knowing and truly the fount of wisdom and knowledge.

May we imitate Ben Sirach and all the saints and wise men of the world who found and learned much wisdom and knowledge from you in prayers.

How sad at how some people supposed to be learned and yet still blind to the reality that so many times in this life, not everything can be planned nor calculated nor be fool proof. There are so many other things that can happen in our lives, for better or for worst, without us really knowing and so prepared how to deal with the severe blows and beatings we receive especially from others whom we trust and expect so much.

It is only your Divine wisdom that can truly teach us how to deal and go on with life’s many questions and difficulties we might never answer nor understand.

Give us the grace of humility to come to you through Jesus Christ your Son in our prayers to cultivate a spiritual life which is a relationship centered on you, not on us or anybody else. Give us the grace of humility most especially to keep our eyes wide-opened to your coming, to your prodding, and to your words of wisdom that run contrary to what we think and believe as true.

Help us not to fall into the shameful errors of the chief priests, the scribes and the elders of Jerusalem who were so blinded with pride and intellectual arrogance that they have refused to open their eyes to your working and coming in John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com

Jesus said to them, “I shall ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. Was John’s baptism of heavenly or of human origin? Answer me.” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But shall we say, ‘Of human origin’?” — they feared the crowd, for they all thought John really was a prophet. So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” Then Jesus said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

Mark 11:29-33

Have mercy on us, dear God especially on those who continue to insist on their arrogance and pride because their ego have been badly hurt and bruised that no light of reason can open their eyes to see the bigger beauty of life you offer in following your “unconventional wisdom”. Amen.

The lure of “Athens”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Sts. Nereus and Achilleus, Martyrs, 12 May 2021
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1   ><)))'> + ><)))*> + ><)))'>   John 16:12-15
Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, 2019.
After Paul's escorts had taken him to Athens,
they came away with instructions for Silas and Timothy
to join him as soon as possible.  Then Paul stood up at the
Areopagus..... When they heard about resurrection of
the dead, some began to scoff, but others said, 
"We should like to hear you on this some other time."
And so Paul left them.  
But some did join him, 
and became believers.
(Acts 17:15, 22, 32-34)

How amazing and different indeed are your ways, O Lord Jesus Christ! You have brought Paul to Athens that was the cultural capital of the world at that time and center of learning but, alas, it never became a hub for the proclamation of your Gospel.

Cities of lesser importance like the decadent Corinth would in fact be better off than Athens for Paul’s missionary endeavors that this is the only time he had gone to this famous city. Despite his best efforts at preaching, the people of Athens who were considered “bright and learned” did not accept your Gospel.

They could not accept your dying on the Cross and your Resurrection because for them God is never defeated, God is never put down, God is never humiliated.

They have great ideas of what is a God that speak so well of who they are – forgetting that in this this life, the most important is to know who you are, O Lord, so we may know what are we here in this life.

In this world described as highly competitive and so modern, we are easily lured into the glow of greatness and sophistications, of human intelligence and mastery of technology but so empty of our souls, of the inside not knowing you our Lord and God.

As you have promised during your last supper in our gospel today, send us the Holy Spirit to open our eyes and our hearts to believe in you, to believe in the folly of your Cross, to believe and accept your very person so we may enter into a relationship with you that is personal and intimate like Saints Nereus and Achilleus who were both Roman soldiers but after experiencing your love and mercy, they turned away from Rome and chose to fight for you in their lives of witnessing.

We pray today for those having a hard time believing in your loving presence, Lord Jesus Christ because of this pandemic. Those who have lost their jobs, those who could not make ends meet due to their very limited income, those who have take care of their sick family members.

Too often, O Lord, it is when your Cross is so heavy that many of us begin to doubt you, not realizing that it is on the Cross precisely where we meet and experience you truly, changing our person, changing our views as you make us realize the path to Easter is through the Cross. Amen.