When we are disturbed

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
First Friday, Memorial of St. Agatha, 05 February 2021
Hebrews 13:1-8     >><)))*>   +++  <*(((><<     Mark 6:14-29
Photo by author, Silang, Cavite, September 2020.

Your words today are very disturbing, Lord Jesus. So many times I find myself like Herod perplexed at listening to your words, praying your words, analyzing and learning your words for they are so delightful to the feelings but so disturbing when I am in a state of sin.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, in making into a cliche that beautiful prayer we once in a while utter to you, “Disturb us, O Lord.” So often we hear and read this beautiful prayer without really meaning it so well like Herod in today’s gospel.

Herod feared John, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man, and kept him in custody. When he heard him speak he was very much perplexed, yet he liked to listen to him. Herodias had an opportunity one day when Herod, on his birthday, gave a banquet for his courtiers, his military officers, and the leading men of Galilee…

The girl hurried back to the king’s presence and made her request, “I want you to give me at once on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was deeply distressed, but because of his oaths and the guests he did not wish to break his word to her. So he promptly dispatched an executioner with orders to bring back his head. He went off and beheaded him in the prison.

Mark 6:20-21, 25-27

Disturb us, O Lord?

So nice to read, so good to say but never easy to totally feel and live out its real meaning!

There is no doubt at how your words disturb us, dear Jesus, bothering our conscience, making us feel uncomfortable specially when we are deeply into sin and evil; but then, we would reason out with our usual alibis and justifications that eventually we find a way out of your teachings like Herod in taking the wife of his brother Philip.

Ironically, and yes, tragically, when our words are put to test by somebody else’s words, we feel more distressed like Herod when asked for the head of John after making a pledge to his daughter to ask for anything. Shamefully, that is when we are pushed to edge to finally make a decision on something so wrong simply because we felt challenged and dared to assert our position and power. We act instinctively without much thinking if we are just being taken for a ride, of being manipulated like Herod.

Beheading of John the Baptist from wikipediacommons.org.

O Lord, you know us so well. Too often in life, we would rather bear the daily hurts no matter how painful for as long as we look good among others than suffer big time in confronting and accepting our true selves before you for fear it could badly wound us, exposing our true selves and other vulnerabilities as a person like Herod. Yes, we would rather save face than save souls.

Give us the grace and courage, Lord Jesus Christ, to face up and dare ourselves to rise to your challenge of purifying ourselves into better persons like John the Baptist who truly played his role as your precursor with his prophetic preaching.

Like St. Agatha your holy virgin and martyr, may we persevere in our sufferings, not disturbed at all at what others may say except in how we may witness your Gospel of love and mercy for you are always “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Amen.

A mosaic of St. Agatha of Sicily whose breasts were cut off by her torturers hoping she would renounce her faith in Christ. She remained faithful to Jesus who sent St. Peter to appear to her in a vision to console her and thus became the patron saint for those with breast cancer. She eventually died a martyr while in prison as a result of the repeated cruelties inflicted to her around year 251. Photo from aleteia.org.

Prayer to remain in Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Memorial of St. Agnes, Virgin and Martyr, 21 January 2021
Hebrews 7:25-8:6  >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>  Mark 3:7-12
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, November 2020.

Lord Jesus Christ, you know how things are going on in our country and in our lives these days. Things are not getting any better and in fact, 2021 is beginning to look more like an extension of 2020.

We are not complaining, dear Jesus.

All I am asking you is to help us remain in you, to hold on to you, to trust in you no matter how tough and difficult are the situations many of us are facing.

Like those workers of Makati Shangri-la to be laid off next month and the many others who have earlier lost their jobs and means of livelihood, still seeking employment at this time.

I pray for those who have lost their loved ones to COVID-19, cancer, and other illnesses recently. Help them grieve and cope in their losses.

I pray also for those undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis, and physical therapy.

Most specially too to our tired and exhausted medical frontliners still battling the pandemic while many among us seem to not care at all in getting infected or spreading the COVID-19 virus.

We all come to you, sweet Jesus, like those large number of people from all over Israel – Jews and pagans as well – not only to seek healing from you, but most of all to remain one and united in you as your followers (Mk.3:8).

Lord Jesus, more than the favors we can have from you is the relationship we want to keep with you.

The main point of what has been said is this: we have such a high priest, who has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of the majesty in heaven, a minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle that the Lord, not man, set up… Now he has obtained so much more excellent in ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises.

Hebrews 8:1, 6

Give us the grace of courage and fidelity in you like the young St. Agnes who firmly stood her ground as a martyr, a witness, to your gospel of love and salvation.

Help us realize, Lord, that you have come to seek our relationships, our oneness in you more than just being healed or being blessed with things we wish for. Amen.

Our song, our life

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-7 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week IV, 22 December 2020
1 Samuel 1:24-28     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 1:46-56
Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 20 December 2020.

When I was about to enter the high school seminary, an aunt would always comment on our way to school how I would become a priest when I am a big fan of rock and roll music. You know, the usual stuff ever since with old folks about rock music as evil and everything…

Looking back, I just imagine what if I had told her and my other relatives the meaning of Steely Dan that is my most favorite band? Most likely they would have fainted! And I would tell tell them too that I am the only priest who had played Stairway to Heaven in Radio Veritas where I used to co-anchor a show, playing only good, old rock n’ roll to the delight of many listeners despite protests from management.

Lately I have been blogging every week linking secular music with the Sunday gospel that had enabled me to reach new and younger generations I hope had rediscovered Jesus in the music I had offered them.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had said that “music is the food of the soul” and it is very true for it transcends cultures and languages that even if you do not understand the lyrics, music always touches the soul.

Meanwhile, the great English playwright William Shakespeare is said to tell his audience at the start of his plays that “If music be the food of love, play on.” That’s very beatiful. Like love, music is best served with another person; when we sing, it is always to pour our hearts out. We let others hear our song even if we sing alone because that is what music is all about – it is meant to be shared.

This is the reason why Mary sang her Magnificat during her Visitation of Elizabeth, not by herself in Nazareth after the angel had left after announcing to her the birth of Jesus.

Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

Luke 1:46-49
Photo from Pinterest, Our Lady of Fatima Centennial in Portugal, 17 May 2017.

Mary praised and thanked God with her “Magnificat”

Recall how Elizabeth praised Mary twice and her baby Jesus in the womb once yesterday at the Visitation. Naturally for us, when we are praised we always return it by praising too whoever spoke nicely of us.

But that was not the case with Mary. She took the occasion to praise and thank God for all His goodness and salvific work in her and in Elizabeth. Like Hanna in the first reading and responsorial psalm today who sang praises to God in giving her a son in the prophet Samuel, Mary while filled with the Holy Spirit sang this canticle, narrating how God worked in her and through her.

Our lives is a song of thanksgiving always to God who never stops doing great things for us not to make us famous but to bring His divine will into fulfillment. Mary affirmed this when she admitted her own blessedness, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

Yesterday we have reflected that true blessedness is to trust in God. Likewise, Mary added another dimension in what is to be blessed before God and that is being His servant, His slave or in her very words to the angel at the annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

A handmaid is the feminine form of “slave” but more than being poetic in her identification as a female slave of God, Mary through her Magnificat showed us a glimpse of the lives of the early Christians at that time who were considered “weird” and “odd”, even “bizarre” among the Roman pagans who could not understand why they worshipped Jesus Christ they saw as “a crucified criminal”.

Worst of all for the pagans, they could not understand why the early Christians who were mostly poor would give themselves to Jesus in loving service to others like the sick, the elderly, the hungry, widows and orphans and those living in the margins.

In fact, the Roman historian Pliny recorded in his writings how during the persecution the emperor’s soldiers rounded up Christians in every town and city by looking for anybody doing good, serving the poor and needy! It is something to think about for us Christians today: Would any one of us be arrested because we are doing something good like serving the less fortunate?

Photo by author, Our Lady of the Poor at Boys Town in Cavite (2009).

Mary, the first model disciple, the first to live out the Gospel

In singing her blessedness by God, Mary had assumed her being the spokeswoman of the early Christians, the poor ones or anawim of Israel who were truly poor materially, trusting entirely on God.

Here lies her challenge to us who love to sing her Magnificat: do we allow God to work in us His salvation?

“He has mercy on those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he remembered his promise of mercy…”

Luke 1:50-54

Again, we find many similarities in the Mary’s Magnificat and Hanna’s song we heard in the responsorial psalm. But, more than that is the striking similarity of Magnificat with the Beatitudes to be preached by Jesus according to Luke.

In Matthew’s gospel, there are eight Beatitudes preached by Jesus at his sermon on the mount; Luke narrated it differently by citing only four Beatitudes he paired with four woes that Jesus preached in His sermon on the plain (this is due to the different audience Luke and Matthew addressed):

Blessed are you who are poor… Blessed are you who are now hungry… Blessed are you who are now weeping… Blessed are you when people hate you…

Woe to you who are rich… Woe to you who are filled… Woe to you who laugh now… Woe to you when all speak well of you…

Luke 6:20-26

Magnificat is the Gospel in a nutshell. See the works of God cited by Mary perfectly jibing with the Beatitudes of Jesus. Here we find again how Luke has shown us the consistency of Mary as a disciple of her Son Jesus Christ by witnessing to His teachings, living them out for which she was crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.

This is the reason why I love so much the image of Fatima and of Banneux known as Lady of the Poor with Mary portrayed as so simple yet so lovely and beautiful. What a scandal for the Church in our time with all those lavish processions and coronations of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the poor are left out, becoming more of a social function among the rich and famous. What a shame most especially amid the pandemic when some parishes can spend so much fortune in these rituals that look more as a show which the Blessed Virgin would definitely disapprove. Keep in mind how Mary identified herself as “handmaid of the Lord” — do away all those pomp and pageantries please!

Every night, we priests and the religious sing the Magnificat in our Evening prayers to examine ourselves if we have lived out the Gospel message of the Lord, if we have been poor and hungry, if we have allowed ourselves to be used by God to effect His salvation among the suffering.

The same is true with every disciple of Jesus: when we sing the Magnificat or “Ang Puso ko’y nagpupuri”, we have to do some soul searching how consistent we have been as a disciple of the Lord like His Mother Mary.

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 July 2016.

How sad late yesterday when some people -whether they are trolls or not – had come out expressing support to that cop who brutally shot and killed Sonya Gregorio and her son Anton in their home in Paniqui, Tarlac Sunday afternoon.

How can some people be not affected and even defend or belittle such unspeakable crime of a man supposed to uphold the law, protect civilians?

What had gone wrong with us as the only Christian nation in this part of the world?

Can we sing “Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri sa Panginoon, nagagalak ang aking espiritu, sa aking Tagapagligtas” while we rejoice and defend all forms of brutalities and violence around us?

As we strongly condemn this unspeakable crime and demand justice for Sonya and Anton, let us work hard and pray hardest to imitate Mary to effect change in the society we live in and create by being a voice of the poor and vessel of God’s salvation. Amen.

Advent is simply being good

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week-III, 15 December 2020
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Matthew 21:28-32
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his youngest son, 21 November 2019.

Dearest God our Father: Lately our social media giants were having problems, one by one, had gone down for several hours with glitches that could not be accessed. And everybody is complaining that in less than a week, Messenger, GMail, and YouTube have landed on headlines in the world.

What is happening?

A new religion? A new god everybody is following?

Almost everyone is crazy risking one’s life for the sake of remaining in the web because even children declare, “wifi is life”!

It may be funny but thought-provoking at how we would always want our internet, apps and gadgets perfectly working, doing good all the time.

If we could just be like our internet, apps, and gadgets, Lord, to be simply good as persons, everything would flow smoothly especially our relationships with everybody happy and nobody complaining.

But we are more than internet, apps and gadgets, Lord!

This Season of Advent, teach us to be simply good, to stop all debates and complicated discussions on so many things in life like those people in Jerusalem both during the time of Zephaniah and Jesus Christ.

“Purify our lips” (Zeph.3:9), Lord, that we may “walk our talk” like the first son in the parable: though he said no to his father’s request, he changed his mind and obeyed him (Mt. 21:28-29).

Let us be good brothers and sisters, good neighbors, good classmates, good colleagues, good Christians who reflect more of your presence than what we know or whatever is in our minds that we always insist.

Let us be kind and caring, never judging others, always respecting one another, and trying to find what is good than what is wrong. Amen.

From “cage” of sin to heavenly wedding

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 26 November 2020
Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9     >>>  +   <<<     Luke 21:20-28

Praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ for your words today that offer us with clear images about true freedom that leads to fullness of life. So often, many among us are greatly misled by the belief that true freedom is breaking free from sufferings and God and morals, of having absolute freedom to do everything.

That has always been one of the fundamental tenets of pagans of ancient Rome you have banished for being a “cage”, an imprisonment!

“Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great. She has become a haunt for demons. She is a cage for every unclean spirit, a cage for every unclean bird, a cage for every unclean and disgusting beast.”

Revelation 18:2, 21

True freedom is choosing what is true and good, trying to bear all pains and sufferings that purify us into better persons, that free us from impurities to enter into your heavenly banquet of eternal life.

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who have been called to the wedding feast of the Lamb.”

Revelation 19:9

Life continues to bear down upon us these days, Lord, especially the poor who are left with almost nothing in this life; worst, with nothing else but their dignity as persons, there are times they are being forced to give it up for a price.

Give us the grace of perseverance, to withstand all pressures by holding on to you, clinging to your merciful love that amid all the trials and sufferings going on, we may “stand erect and raise our heads because our redemption is at hand” (Lk.21:28).

Let us not be ashamed of being faithful to you, Jesus, for you alone can lead us to true freedom as a person. Amen.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King celebrations in the parish, 22 November 2020.

Praying not to be deceived

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, St. Andrew Dung-Lac, Priest, and Companions, Martyrs, 24 November 2020
Revelations 14:14-19     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 21:5-11
Photo by author, “wailing wall” of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Your words today, Lord Jesus, are disturbing because they are actually happening: “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name saying ‘I am he’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them!” (Lk.21:8).

In our age of instant communications when everything is reduced to bits and pieces of information to be consumed by everyone through various media platforms, we have become so gullible for whatever is fed to us. The more outlandish even unbelievable, the better! Worst, we never bother to check their veracity and even sanity that sometimes, we have become so foolish to accept everything we hear and see and read.

Heighten our sense of reason and most especially our faith in you.

Let us not be deceived in following your impostors as well as focusing more on the coming end that we forget to live in the present moment by making a stand for your gospel truths.

Like St. Andrew Dung-Lac and his companion martyrs in Vietnam, they chose to live in the present moment of giving witness to your gospel than arguing or debating if it were the moment of your final coming or not.

Let us not be deceived by focusing on the peripherals of our faith like rites and rituals empty of loving service for others.

May we stand firmly by your side, for what is true and just, so that when judgement day comes, we may remain faithful in you like grapes so ripened, ready for harvesting, and when pressed, produce good wine to uplift the spirits. Amen.