Seeing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 22 September 2022
Ecclesiastes 1:2-11   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 9:7-9
Photo by author, sunrise at Our Lady of Fatima University in Antipolo City, August 2022.
Your words today, 
O Lord our God are
"greatly perplexing" 
that I feel like Herod
the tetrarch in the gospel
"trying to see" you,
Jesus (Lk.9:7-9).
So many times
I have prayed before
asking you how I 
wanted to see you
because "all is vanity
in this world; nothing is new
under the sun.  Even the
thing we say as new has already
existed in the ages that
preceded us" (Eccl.1:2,9-10);
and so, what else is there
for us to see in this world,
in this life but you, 
dear Jesus! 
But, how can we see you
truly, O Lord Jesus, so that
we may also find the meaning
of this life amid all the vanities
around us?
When a group of Greeks
came to Jerusalem and
requested to see you
just before Good Friday,
you replied through Philip 
with the falling and dying 
of a grain of wheat 
(Jn.12:20-26) to show us
that in order to see you,
we have to learn to look
through your Cross; 
that we can only see you, 
Jesus, in your Passion
and Death to see your glory
in your Resurrection.
Forgive us, Lord,
when so many times
we wax our desire to see you
with novelties and sentimentalities
of the world that are simply 
vanities like Herod the Tetrarch;
let us go down to our knees
before you on the Cross,
commune with you in
prayers before the Blessed
Sacrament and most especially, 
live by witnessing your pasch
in a world so fascinated with
drama and effects
than with essence
that is love willing to
suffer and die like you
on the Cross.
Amen.

Praying for those we value

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, 12 September 2022
1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33   ><)))*> + <*(((>< ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 7:1-10
Photo by author, 2018.
On this blessed Monday
after a weekend of heavy rains
and thunderstorms, I pray dear 
Lord Jesus for those dearest to
me, the persons I value for they
have all showed me a glimpse of
your goodness and kindness;
most of all, it was from them that I
have experienced your love and care.

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.

Luke 7:1-2
How touching,
lovely, and so sweet Luke's 
opening lines for today's gospel:
of how a gentile military officer
valued a slave, asking for
representation to Jesus for a much
needed healing, because "he was
valuable to him."
How lovely as the story went on
when the centurion declared those 
very words we also pray before
receiving you, Jesus, in Holy Communion:
"Lord, I am not worthy that you should
enter under my roof, but only say the word
and I shall be healed" (Lk.7:6).
So true, indeed, when we have deep faith
in you, dear Jesus, like that centurion, we
would surely have great love for others;
it is in this deep faith in you, O Lord
who is most present with us in the Eucharist
that we pray for the healing of our loved ones,
those we value most of their sickness 
not only in body but also in mind, heart and soul; 
deepen and strengthen their faith in you,
keep their hopes alive in you always
despite the pains and fears within them.
O dear Jesus,
may we truly be Eucharistic
in our lives, valuing every person
especially those going through 
sufferings and difficulties these
days so that "as often as we eat this
bread and drink this cup, we may
proclaim your death Lord until 
you come again" (1 Cor.11:26).
Amen.
Photo by Ka Ruben of the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

Of “old yeast” & “withered hand”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-third Week of Ordinary Time, 05 September 2022
1 Corinthians 5:1-8   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 6:6-11
Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com
Your words today, O Lord
our God are so amazing:
in the first reading your speak
of "clearing out the old yeast so
that we may become a fresh batch
of dough" (1 Cor.5:7) while in the 
gospel there was Jesus healing a
man with a "withered hand" on a 
sabbath (Lk.6:6, 10).
Two beautiful images of death,
of decay so prevalent among us
even these days because we simply
would not heed St. Paul's calls for us
to discard our old ways of life in sins
and evil, of praising decadence as
progressive and liberal while at the
same time our refusal to break free
from our strict adherence to laws and 
traditions without seeing its whole
meaning of finding God in the face of 
every person we meet and those in need. 
Let us be aware, dear Jesus,
of the need for us to keep in mind
that holiness, being good and loving
with others is not just a personal effort;
let us realize that we as a community
of believers have to witness to what is
true and proper especially at this time
when many with various agendas in life
are getting organized to push for their
wayward beliefs on abortions,
divorce, same-sex marriage, including 
specific rights separated from human rights
being pushed by some feminists and LGBTQ's.
Father, it has been a crazy world lately
and sadly, those who are supposed to 
stand and voice out what is true and good,
what is reasonable and proper are the ones
now so silent and even timid like the Church,
the academic and education sector as well as
the media as vanguards of truth; stir the flame in
us, grant us courage to celebrate and live life 
"not with the old yeast of malice and wickedness 
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth"
(1 Cor. 5:8), always "stretching out our hands" to
reach out to others in loving service like Jesus
Christ in healing the sick (Lk.6:10).  Amen.

Conviction & Commitment to Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 04 September 2022
Wisdom 9:13-18 ><}}}}*> Philemon 9-10 ><}}}}*> Luke 14:25-33
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019, Malolos Cathedral Basilica.

One of the most moving parts of the rite of ordination to the priesthood as well at profession of vows by nuns is when they prostrate in front of the church altar to signify their total conviction and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ.

What a beautiful image of the nature and essence of discipleship requiring great sacrifices to faithfully persevere to the end in Jesus who is always the highest priority of our lives, not only of priests and religious but lay people alike for we are all called to a life of holiness.

We find this conviction and commitment to Jesus in Paul’s own experience while in prison when the slave of his friend Philemon named Onesimus fled to seek refuge in him and eventually converted into Christianity.


Conformity and fidelity to the gospel 
is beyond morality 
because it is an adherence 
to the person of Jesus Christ.

It must have been a difficult situation for Paul if found harboring a runaway slave, Onesimus, who in turn could face death as punishment for his act. Remember that slavery was normal during Paul’s time and even if he did not preach directly against its institution, here in this short powerful letter of just 25 verses he planted the seeds for its destruction when he stressed that Onesimus is Philemon’s “brother in the Lord”.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, 29 August 2022.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

Philemon 15-17

Many times in life, we realize that fidelity to the gospel can be entirely unreasonable like when we have to be like Philemon whom Paul had asked to believe in the sincerity of the conversion of Onesimus his slave when it seemed to be more of convenience or merely circumstantial. Most of all, how could we receive another as a “beloved brother in the Lord” to whom we owe nothing at all when in fact who had hurt us in the first place! Conformity and fidelity to the gospel is beyond morality because it is an adherence to the person of Jesus Christ, of our communion with him and in him as his disciples.

Are we willing to go that far, of leaving everything behind, even our loved ones, our very selves for Jesus like what the gospel asks us today?

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:25-27
Photo by author, Stations of the Cross, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, June 2022.

It is already September and we have only about 12 weeks to go before closing this liturgical year to prepare for Christmas with the Advent Season. Jesus is fast approaching Jerusalem and great crowds were already following him.

However, Jesus was very much aware too of the mixed crowd following him where many were simply curious, some were interested, still searching for more proofs perhaps while a few of them were already committed.

How about us today?

See how Luke presented Jesus resolutely journeying to Jerusalem when he turned to face the crowd that includes us today to issue two important lessons about discipleship, hating those dearest to us including our very selves and, second, carrying our cross.


There comes a time in our lives 
when the only explanation, 
the only justification, 
and the only reason 
why we do something unthinkable 
even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is not asking us to literally hate our family and friends or even our very selves; the word hate in this passage refers more to action than emotion, of doing something that others would surely hate like when we do not give in to their requests to support them in a lie or something not fair and just, or simply sinful and evil. We have experienced how it is actually more difficult to being good Christians doing God’s will, doing what is right and good that are exactly not what our family and friends are doing and would want us to also do. And that is why, when we do not go with them and their whims and caprices, they think we “hate” them.

Following Jesus means putting him first always, even above our loved ones that they always misinterpret as our lack of love and concern for them.

But more difficult than that is hating our very selves, doing a Philemon for the many Onesimus in our lives. There comes a time in our lives when the only explanation, the only justification, and the only reason why we do something unthinkable even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. And that is when we have to hate our selves like when we forgo vengeance, let go of some debts, forget all about technicalities and legalities because we love Jesus. It is really foolish by world standards that sometimes one comes to hate one’s self too for letting go and letting God.

Photo by author, detail of Seventh Station of the Cross in the Parish of San Ildefonso, Tanay, Rizal with a man wearing shades, January 2021.

Meanwhile, to carry one’s cross is more than patiently accepting our human conditions of suffering and sickness, weakness and trials in life. This understanding of carrying one’s cross implies passivity as if the difficulty we are into is something that just happened and fell on our lap or shoulder that we simply have to accept them in the name of Christ.

That is very good and highly commendable but, Jesus wants a more active participation from us. To carry one’s cross is to voluntarily choose and accept a difficulty in life as a direct consequence of our conviction in and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord and Teacher!

This is the reason Jesus presented us with two parables after sounding his call to discipleship, that one of building a tower and of a general going to war. The two men in these parables had to calculate the cost of their efforts, of how much they have to sacrifice and give to be successful in their endeavors lest they become laughing stocks in the community. The same is true with each one of us today as disciples of Jesus.

“In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce his possession cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:33

Of course, Jesus gives us the grace to become good disciples but grace builds on nature; how much are we willing to sacrifice, to renounce even our very selves to truly follow Jesus through and through?

Kaya mo ba?

Photo from gettyimages.com.

Discipleship in Christ is being devoted to him in the same manner he is devoted to the Father toward whom he is drawing us. There is no other Way but Jesus alone. Therefore, to be his disciple means to prefer nothing to Christ who is our very life, our being, our end.

There is no room for mediocrity in being his disciple. We have seen in history and in our very lives how superficial discipleship had caused more damages to the Church and to each one of us when we fail to be committed to our calls. Despite our long years of seminary formation, many of us priests miserably fail in our discipleship with the many scandals that plague the Church these days, not to mention the endless complaints by people of how their pastors do not prepare homilies nor celebrate Mass daily and worst, refuse to answer sick calls! On the other hand, many families and most especially children have been destroyed by the separations of many couples who have refused to learn of letting go of themselves to let God work in their relationships. Then, there are the siblings who fight simply because they cannot let go of their principles and egos and wealth that matter most to them than their brother or sister, or even parents!

This Sunday, let us pray for God’s counsels, for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit as expressed in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom so we may not simply know what is good but most of all lead holy lives by experiencing God daily as his disciples. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Finding our proper place

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 28 August 2022
Sirach 3:17-18, 20, 28-29 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:18-19, 22-24 ><}}}*> Luke 14:1, 7-14
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan City, 31 December 2021.

Sometimes I feel life in the Philippines is a daily game of musical chair with each of us trying to secure our favorite seats in the bus or jeepney or train, in the classroom, in the church, in the restaurant. Everywhere.

And the favorite seats are always the ones at the back of the room most especially in churches and those nearest the door like in buses and jeepneys.

Most funny of all is when you find our kababayan in airports here and abroad rushing to board the plane as if they would not find a seat already paid for!

All because we put too much premium on our seats that mean power and control, even prestige although no one among us would admit it. In fact, our usual excuse of being seated at the back is due to shyness which is not true at all! More truthful is the fact that too often, we choose our seats for personal convenience that seats are everything for us.

But, unknown to many of us, what truly matters most in life, in being a disciple of Jesus Christ is not where we sit but where we stand which is the gist of our gospel this Sunday.

On a Sabbath, Jesus went to dine at the home of one of the leading Pharisees, and the people there were observing him carefully. He told a parable to those who had been invited, noticing how they were choosing the places of honor at the table.

Luke 14:1,7
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.

See how Luke had briefly compressed in his opening lines for this Sunday’s gospel the gravity of Christ’s teachings today about discipleship. Setting was the most important day of the week for the Jews, the Sabbath, celebrated right in the house of a leading Pharisee.

Wow! It must had been a big party with all the “who’s who” that everybody was trying to get a piece of the action with all eyes on Jesus being observed carefully.

But, why?

To impress him? To be closer to him? To test him as most often would happen with him when in a gathering of people?

I find the scene overloaded with meanings that concern us when unconsciously we also “closely observe Jesus” whenever we would pray and celebrate the Sunday Mass in our parishes. There are times we forget God in our prayers as we are so preoccupied with our very selves, so focused and even insistent on what we believe and hold on to whatever we are asking from him. The “me, me, me” and “I, I, I” attitudes of being right, of being good, of being deserving and of course, entitled. Hence, the confiteor and kyrie are merely recited just for the sake of saying we are sorry for our sins even if we do not really mean them because so often, many are either late or do not examine their consciences.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Luke seems to be having some shades of humor when he noted how the “people carefully observed Jesus” at the dinner without them realizing the Lord himself had already and easily unmasked their pretensions and true characters of choosing the places of honor at the dinner that he had to tell them a parable about choosing the lowest seat!

When we come to the Lord most especially at prayer and the Mass, or even to a party and dinner for that matter, our main attitude must be of humility; to be invited to any party is an indication of our special relationship with the host. Multiply this to the highest degree in coming to the Holy Mass and simple prayer because it is God who gives us the grace to come to him, who values so much our relationship as Father and beloved children.

That is the point of Ben Sirach in the first reading, tenderly addressing the reader “My child, conduct your affairs with humility” (Sir.3:17), indicative of a relationship.

Every Sunday Mass is a banquet of the Lord like that Sabbath dinner Jesus attended in the gospel. No need to choose our places of honor because we are already honored by Jesus to celebrate “in him, with him and through him”. It is the very reason why we must celebrate Mass every Sunday as good, practicing Catholics.

Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

Prayer and Mass are moments we strip ourselves naked before God who welcomes us to come near him even before we say sorry for our sins, even if we are not worthy of being in his presence at all. Recall the story of the calling of Nathanael or St. Bartholomew the Apostle last Wednesday; like him, Jesus had already seen and known us with joy long before we have approached him!

Every prayer moment, every Eucharistic celebration like a banquet on a Sabbath Jesus attended in the gospel today is an occasion for us to be truthful and sincere, to be our true selves, to be humble. St. Teresa of Avila said that “humility is walking in truth.” Just be yourself before God.

That is why Jesus said, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). In the end, when we die, we shall all be placed in our proper places before God; hence, the need for us to be humble and sincere with who we really are. Do not try to be somebody else not you because God knows everything, even the hair on our heads.

Then he said to the host who invited him, “When you hold a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends, or your brothers or your relatives or your wealthy neighbors, in case they may invite you back and you have repayment. Rather, when you hold a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; blessed indeed will you be because of their inability to repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Luke 14:12-14
Photo by author, Parish of San Pedro Calungsod, Sumulong Highway, Antipolo City, 12 August 2022.

The first parable was addressed by Jesus to the guests while this second parable was meant for the host; however, both parables are meant for us all who are all guests of God in this big banquet called life that leads to eternity.

First of all, just be our true and best selves in prayers and in life for we are all honored in Jesus Christ as God’s beloved children.

And if we live and act like Jesus our Host making him the most important guest in our hearts, then our hearts become big enough to welcome everyone, especially “the crippled, the lame, the blind”, making us inclusive like Jesus himself and not exclusive as our seating arrangements would often reveal.

The right attitude in being a guest and a host in this life is to imitate God in the responsorial psalm “who made a home for the poor”, of being like Jesus welcoming everyone with love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness, care and understanding.

Again, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews beautifully reminds us today in the second reading that the ultimate goal of our Christian life is communion with God that starts here in this life on earth. Every Mass is a “dress rehearsal” of our entrance into heaven because

Brothers and sisters: You have not approached that which cold be touched and a blazing fire and gloomy and darkness… No, you have approached Mount Zion and the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… and the assembly of the firstborn enrolled in heaven… and Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and the sprinkled blood that speaks more eloquently than that of Abel.

Hebrews 12:18, 22, 23, 24
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.

My dear fellow journeyers in Christ, the blessedness of this Sunday shows us how fast time flies, that in a few days, it would be September, the beginning of the -ber months, the approaching Christ the King celebration to close our liturgical calendar.

Before thinking of Advent and Christmas, we are reminded today of “Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday, June 26, 2022) to face his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Along the way are invitations to join him too in banquets; let us not seek the seats of honor but instead be firm in making our stand for Jesus on the Cross by being loving and merciful like him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

When God surprises us

Lord My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of the Queenship of Mary, 22 August 2022
Isaiah 9:1-6   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 1:39-47
Photo by author,Makati skyline at sunset from Antipolo City, 13 August 2022.
It is a very busy Monday 
for everyone, O God, 
our loving Father:
it is the first day of school
for most students, 
another first day of work
with all the traffic and woes
of life slowly going back
to normal.
And I really wonder,
what could surprise us today, 
Lord, like Mary when your 
angel announced to her the
coming of Jesus Christ by
being his mother?

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29
“Coronation of the Virgin” by Diego Velazquez (ca.1635/1636) from en.wikipedia.org.
On this memorial of the 
Queenship of Mary,
let us rejoice and be grateful
to you for the grace of being
favored to be up and going this day
no matter how busy we may be;
let us be surprised by the
tremendous blessings you
shower upon us like Mary
when deep in our hearts we know
we are nothing before you;
surprise us, Lord, of your 
presence, of your life, of your love,
most of all, of your trust;
enable us to say yes to your call
for us to serve you today,
to bring light in this dark world,
to share Jesus Christ like Mary
who is our "Prince of Peace and
Wonder-Counselor" (Is.9:5).
O most blessed Virgin Mary,
help us to welcome Jesus Christ
daily in our lives in order for us to
share him with everyone like you;
as the first of the human race in rank
before God's presence and as the
Mother of Christ our King, you are 
given the title of Queen not only as an
honor but an example of discipleship in
your Son Jesus.  Amen.

O, Mary Queen of heaven,
Pray for us!

“Where is my new heart, Lord?”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 18 August 2022
Ezekiel 36:23-28   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Makati skyline at dusk from Antipolo, 13 August 2022.
Your words today, O God
are so reassuring,
so comforting and consoling:
"I will sprinkle clean water upon you
to cleanse you from all your impurities,
and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
I will give you a new heart and place
a new spirit within you, taking from your
bodies your stony hearts and giving you
natural hearts" (Ezekiel 36:25-26).
As I dwell on your words,
including the psalms taken from
my favorite chapter 51 called
"miserere nobis" (have mercy on me),
your Holy Spirit prompted me,
even insisted me to ask, "where is my
new heart, Lord?"
Many of us wonder, Lord, where is my 
new heart of flesh, the new spirit
within me you have promised?
Why do I not feel your clean water
cleansing me of my impurities?
Why do I still feel tired, sometimes
uninspired, even lost and alienated,
losing hope, getting cynical,
feeling so low?
Has the Lord taken back our new hearts
and new spirit within he had promised?
Of course not!
God has given us with new hearts,
new spirit within by cleansing us with
clean water to remove our impurities
in the Passion, Death and Resurrection
of Jesus Christ, his Son and our Savior.
In baptism, we have been cleansed
and we are continually cleansed of our
impurities in the sacraments we celebrate
like the Holy Eucharist.
And there lies the problem
when we do not feel our new hearts,
new spirit:  when we refuse to join your
celebrations, O Lord, like in your parable.
Not only that:  teach us too to rise to
your celebrations, dearest Lord;
let us change our inner selves in more
prayers and introspection and confession
of sins so that we may be transformed to 
better persons as Christians; clothe us with 
more commitment to our baptismal promises,
to live out in our lives and relationships 
what we claim as we believe in.

And so, where is our new hearts,
O Lord?  

It is right here in our very present moment 
whenever we accept your invitation, your call
to turn away from sins, from selfishness, and 
vested interests!
It is right here in our present moment when
we allow our new personhood in Christ 
lead us to pray more, listen more, forgive
more, serve more, and witness his gospel
more.  Amen.

Prayer of an (h)ungry sheep

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2022
Ezekiel 34:1-11   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 20:1-16
Photo from https://aleteia.org/2019/05/12/three-of-the-oldest-images-of-jesus-portrays-him-as-the-good-shepherd/.
God our loving Father,
what happened in Israel
during Ezekiel's time is happening
again, of "shepherds pasturing
themselves" (Ezekiel 34:2)!
Send us shepherds, dear Father, 
who have vision, who seek Jesus our 
Good Shepherd and not just listen to one's self
or with what our "cordon sanitaires" say and
whisper to our ears no matter how pleasing
or assuring these may be (should we not be
more at home with being bothered than
pleased, Lord?);give us shepherds who would 
come out of their comfort zones like
that landowner ensuring everyone is doing
something; send us shepherds with courage
to smash existing structures of dominance
and cliques within your Church, drive away
the gnostics among us who know only what
is good for one's self to let in a breath 
of fresh air to enliven your flock.
Thank you in calling us
to shepherd your flock in
different capacities as priests,
parents, elder brothers and sisters,
superiors, teachers, leaders and 
managers; but, shepherding is more
than "strengthening the weak,
healing the sick,
binding up the injured,
bringing back the strayed
and seeking the lost" (cf. Ez. 34:4-5):
all these efforts are meant 
to enable every sheep "to work" -
that is, do something good,
something that would awaken
each one's worth and giftedness
as your beloved one like the master
of the vineyard in today's gospel:

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn… at nine o-clock… at noon… at three o’clock… and at about five o’clock to hire laborers for his vineyard.”

Matthew 20:1, 3, 5, 6
O dear Jesus,
forgive us your shepherds,
especially us your priests,
who have refused to go out
literally and figuratively speaking,
to look on your flock, to find every
sheep and give each one a chance to
"work" for you, to do something good
like serve others and harness their talents
you have given;
Oh, please forgive us your shepherds
when we feel so entitled knowing everything
and being capable of everything that we have
refused to stop "working" for you, when we
have refused to leave our "work" and made it
into an office than a ministry, replacing service
with power, simplicity with material comfort,
and yes though very sad, we have made your 
vocation a privilege as we bask in our
positions and ranks, refusing to give others
the chance to work because we have ceased
shepherding, choosing to be herding or worst,
lording over others.
Amen.
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019, Malolos Cathedral.

Believing, living like Mary

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2022
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><)))*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias at UP-Diliman, April 2022.
Glory and praise to you,
Father, for this great solemnity
of Mary being assumed body and
soul into heaven to remind us
of our glorious future too
which she now enjoys ahead of
us all because of her fidelity and 
total submission to your will
in every stage of her life;
teach us like Mary to believe (Lk.1:45)
and live your Word who became flesh
for us in Jesus Christ.

May this faith in you prompt
us to go in sharing Jesus
with his love and mercy, 
kindness and compassion
to those doubting you, O God,
because of too much pains
and sufferings, poverty and sickness;
in this age when people believe more
in the lies peddled by social media
and advertisements, may our lives
mirror like Mary your truth and 
greatness, dear Father with our
loving service to the needy;
in this time of so many tribulations
like this pandemic with the ever growing
materialism of people that has given rise
and spawned so many social evils in the
name of wealth, power and fame,
lead us to the desert of prayers and
purification (Rev. 12:6) so we may receive 
and respond properly to the graces and 
blessings you pour upon us lavishly,
primarily Jesus whom we receive
Body and Blood in the Eucharist,
thus making us like Mary herself,
the bearer of Jesus!
Loving Father,
so many people are suffering
these days, many are about
to give up, many are so lost
that their only hope is heaven,
sometimes wishing death
as a way out, not as a way
through the Cross of Christ
who is our way, truth and life;
show us the way,
lead us like Mary
 by believing your words
and putting them into practice
so that even now,
in the midst of sufferings and
darkness, we may enable
the people to experience and
see our true destiny in eternity
while here.
Right now.
Amen.
“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Faith in Jesus, perfecter of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 14 August 2022
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:1-4 ><}}}*> Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Following Jesus, being a true and good Christian is always difficult. This I realized on my first month as a priest 24 years ago when I gave a “marriage encounter” (ME) to several married couples from the parish of my former professor in the seminary.

Part of the marriage encounter is the writing of one’s sins on a piece of paper with a symbolic burning before going to confession later in the evening; problem was, as a new priest, I gave a wrong instruction asking the spouses to exchange paper with their partner to see each others sins. That was when a wife collapsed after reading the sins of her husband! Actually, she had long suspected him of infidelities but that afternoon, all her doubts and suspicions were proven very true that her blood pressure shoot up, losing her consciousness in anger and pain.

After she had been revived, she kept on saying, “akala ko ME magpapatatag sa aming samahan; ito na yata maghihiwalay sa aming dalawa ng tuluyan” (I thought the ME will make our marriage stronger but it seems this will finally cause our separation as husband and wife).

I tried explaining things to her, prayed so hard for her and eventually after six months, I met them at a wedding as they thanked me how their marriage had gone stronger after surrendering everything to Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"Every Christian is a prophet...
a sign of contradiction."

Many times in our lives we have experienced that our faithful service in the Lord often leads us to distressing and painful situations, even tragic choices. In the first reading, we have heard how Jeremiah’s own folks threw him into a cistern to die because they could not take his preaching against their sinfulness and prophecies of the impending fall of Jerusalem which eventually happened. He was momentarily rescued from the cistern but later was eventually killed by his own people for speaking against their sinful ways and life.

Every Christian is a prophet like Jeremiah, a sign of contradiction among the people, even in one’s own family and circle of friends. To live against the corrupt and sinful ways of the world, to uphold what is true and just, to stand for what is honorable and good surely earn a lot of criticisms and condemnation from everyone. Even in the Church!

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division

Luke 12:49-51
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

With all of these words, we now wonder what is good with our Good News this Sunday? Remember, Jesus Christ is on his way to Jerusalem to face his suffering and death. Today he tells us three things to remember to remain focused with the End.

First is the fire he had brought into the world. It is not a fire of destruction but fire of heat and light that give life; fire that purifies and cleanses like silver and gold that bring out its beauty and magnificence; and most of all, the fire of God’s presence like in the burning bush of Moses and the pillars of fire/cloud that guided the Chosen People in the wilderness into the Promised Land.

Fire gives light and heat that lead into life; we can survive without food and water for several days but we cannot last even ten minutes without heat! This is the kind of fire we Christians need these days, fire that will lit us up with courage ands joy in Jesus Christ by witnessing his gospel in a world that seems to be dying and lifeless despite the noise and affluence around.

As a purifying fire, it always brings pains that lead into conversion and liberation like what that couple in my first Marriage Encounter have experienced. The fire of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness taught them to forgive each other and enabled them to lead holier lives. The more we get closer to Jesus our light, the more we see our sinfulness and weaknesses, then we change and mature. That is when we are filled with the light of Christ to become his presence in the world.

Second teaching of Jesus today is about his “other baptism” which is his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This is the reason why he was “resolutely journeying to Jerusalem” – he was so eager, so decided to face his pasch not for the pains it would bring but for its glorious effects for us.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

That is the real meaning of baptism, from the Greek baptizein which is to immerse in water; hence, baptism before was a literal immersion in water. In our immersion into the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we enter into a communion in him and with him so that in his Resurrection, we too rise with him and in him into new life.

Third pronouncement by Jesus this Sunday is perhaps the most baffling, especially when we consider the statistics that more than half of the conflicts going on in the world today are due to religious beliefs.

Jesus never meant to bring people apart; in fact, he came to bring us all together, to gather us again as beloved children of the Father. However, it happens that the moment we stand for Jesus, for what is true and just, inevitably, we will be with odds even with those dearest to us. Jesus himself had said that “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26).

That is one of the beautiful imageries of the Cross of Jesus Christ: it marks the end of our sinfulness and the beginning of our oneness in God.

It is the difficult aspect of discipleship when our loved ones are into sins and evil, when they are in darkness and injustice. Are we going to side with them or side with Christ?

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his peace (Jn.14:27) that according to him is not like the peace offered by the world that is often based on compromises; Christ’s peace is the fruit of love, of sacrifices. Love and sacrifice are one, always together; when you love, there is sacrifice, there is pain and suffering. That is why it is love!

Parents and lovers know this very well: many times they suffer and cry in silence because of their great love for their children or beloved. It is no wonder that in the Beatitudes, Jesus called the peacemakers and the persecuted blessed because to work for peace entails persecution and division.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"God is dangerous."
-Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar (+)

Last Sunday we have reflected how Jesus used the setting of night for our vigilance because faith is tested and deepened in the darkness of life like during nighttime. And, the darker the night, the longer the night always.

But, we have so many people who have gone ahead of us in this life who have found light and life amid the darkness in life, emerging victorious in their faith in God, from the patriarchs in the Old Testament and in Jesus himself and his Apostles and saints as well.

Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wonderful! Jesus is the leader and perfecter of faith. Very often, we hear the gospels and the Bible speaking always of our having faith in Jesus. But, it is only here and in some instances in Paul we find Jesus having faith; how can Jesus, the Son of God have faith when he is the object of faith?

Let us remember that Jesus is truly human, truly divine. Like us, he also had faith as the gospels attest: he had faith in the Father who sent him. He is the best example of having faith, entrusting everything to the Father that he did not feel ashamed of the Cross. In that sense, Jesus is also the perfecter of faith because in him, with him and through him, we are able to walk in faith, sustain our faith in the most difficult and trying moments of life when we felt our relationships, our world falling apart because we have stood by his Cross. As we look back, we have emerged better, stronger, and most of all, joyful, free and faithful after all those trials in life. Thanks to our faith in Christ!

One of the friends of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II was the Swiss theologian and priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar who said in his 1945 book “The Heart of the World” that God is dangerous.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacia trees in UP-Diliman, April 2022.

Indeed, it is very true especially when Fr. Balthasar noted how God “is inviting you to lose your soul in order to gain it. He always thinks in terms of love. He offers us the impossible… He presents his victory over death as an example to be imitated, he draws us beyond our limits, into his adventure, which is inevitably fatal.”

The blessedness of this Sunday is that Jesus had become like us to lead us the way in a life of faith, perfecting our faith in the process so that we may overcome all obstacles and trials in life like him and be with him in eternal glory in heaven in the End.

Let us keep in mind the worthy reminder of the author of the Letter to Hebrews that “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb.12:4). Amen.

Have a blessed, fiery week of faithful adherence in Christ!