Sharing the “vision of God”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 14 October 2021
Romans 3:21-30   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Luke 11:47-54
Just a few minutes before the start of our Mass at a remote parish I helped last Sunday, these double rainbows greeted me as if God were smiling at me.
Your words today, O Lord
are difficult to comprehend;
words like "righteousness" and 
"justification" are words we rarely use,
terms our generation have forgotten;
but, we are still deeply grateful
to you in sending us these gems
through the insightful writings 
of your great apostle Paul.

Brothers and sisters: Now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faih in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus.

Romans 3:21-24
Though the language may be strange,
its underlying realities of your grace
which is your righteousness and 
love for us, O God our Father,
remain so true as expressed by your
Son Jesus Christ's self-sacrifice
on the Cross for our salvation (justification).
Let the teachings of St. Paul sink into
our hearts and minds that we are
utterly dependent on you, O God, 
for our salvation; that nothing can we
accomplish apart from your grace.
In a society where the self-made
person is so idolized and economic
status is the benchmark for success, 
help us to echo anew the teachings
of St. Paul on grace and salvation
in Jesus Christ; do not let us become
like the Pharisees and scribes and scholars
of the law who kept people away
from your "vision" of grace and salvation 
for everyone.

“Woe to you, scholars of the law! You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter.”

Luke 11:52
Lord Jesus, bless us your
priests and ministers to truly
serve the people in leading them
closer to you in our celebrations
and prayers and most especially
in our witnessing to your Gospel;
may we cast away mediocrity and
sloth, always seeking ways like St. Paul
in making known your wonderful plans
and vision for everyone, especially the
weak and the poor among us.
Amen.

Who is my neighbor vs. am I a neighbor?

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Francis of Assisi, 04 October 2021
Jonah 1:1-2:1-2, 11   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 10:25-37
Painting by Giotto of St. Francis preaching to birds from integratedcatholiclife.org.
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father
on this wonderful Monday
as we celebrate the Memorial
of your well-loved St. Francis of Assisi;
thank you in giving us a great
saint in him for us to emulate
especially in this time when we
are so alienated from Mother Nature
and most especially from each other;
Give us the grace, dear God,
of true devotion than of just mere
novelty and fad in appreciating
St. Francis of Assisi.
Let your words today guide us
in following the footsteps of 
St. Francis in the same manner
your very words inspired him to
leave everything behind and
totally dedicate himself to your service.
Let us be open and obedient
to your words, O Lord,
 unlike Jonah in the first reading
 who tried to escape you when
told to preach in Nineveh;
you know, Lord, how so many times we
label each other to "box" them
into stereotypes especially when
they are so unlike us in many ways.
And that is one of the beautiful lessons
 you have taught us through St. Francis:
  that we are all one,
brothers and sisters
in Jesus Christ who had come to
suffer and die for our sins.
Help us realize that it is not a question
of who is my neighbor but more of
a question if I act as a neighbor to everyone.

“Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?” He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

Luke 10:36-37
Dearest Jesus,
you so loved St. Francis that 
you shared with him your wounds
at the crucifixion, enable us like him
to be more kind and loving to everyone
and most of all be simple and humble 
in our lives so we can always have room
for you among the sick and the poor.  Amen.
Photo from zazzle.com.

Rejoicing in the Word of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Jerome, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 30 September 2021
Nehemiah 8:1-4, 5-6, 7-12  ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 10:1-12
Photo by author (2017), mosaic at the Chapel of St. Jerome beneath the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem where the saint had lived and died in 420; many years later, his bones were transferred to the Basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.
What a blessed Thursday 
you have given us today, 
our dear loving God the Father
as we celebrate the Memorial 
of St. Jerome who taught us that
"ignorance of the scriptures is
ignorance of Jesus Christ".
In him we find hope and consolation
to tame our cantankerous attitudes
in this age of too much means of 
communication that lead to more  
quarrels and division than peace and unity;
give us the grace, O Lord
that like St. Jerome we may assiduously
pray, study, and most of all, live 
the Sacred Scriptures so we may be emptied 
of our many impurities to be filled with
your humility and kindness.
How wonderful that on this day
the first reading describes to us the 
great joy your words have brought to
your exiles upon their return to Jerusalem;
let us give the proper respect due to your
words, dear God, for they are life!

Then Nehemiah, that is, His Excellency, and Ezra the priest-scribe and the Levites who were instructing the people said to all the people: “Today is holy to the Lord your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep,” for all the people were weeping as they heard the words of the law. He said further: “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our Lord. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength!”

Nehemiah 8:9-10
Bless us your priests, Father,
who are supposed to be men of the Word
according to Vatican II that we may
"enflesh" your holy words like Jesus
the eternal Word who became flesh
so that indeed, as your Son had said 
in today's gospel, people would pray
for more laborers in the field than
anything else to feed their hunger
and thirst for meaning in this life.
Amen.

Two hands and a heart in-between

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXII-B in Ordinary Time, 29 August 2021
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 >+< James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 >+< Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Photo by the author, the Holy Land, 2017.

After an interruption of five weeks, we go back to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday that shall guide us until the end of our liturgical calendar with the Solemnity of Christ the King in November. See the beauty of the Sacred Scriptures that those five weeks from John chapter six did not break the flow of narration that is so seamless!

Returning to Mark’s account today after the feeding of five thousand and the bread of life discourse at Capernaum from John, Jesus crossed the lake and proceeded with the Twelve to Gennesaret where he preached and healed until some of his enemies arrived and found an issue to raise against him.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites… You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7:1-3, 5-8

The Israelites have taken pride in their laws given by Moses from God at Mt. Sinai. Simply referred to as the Law or Torah, it had united them as God’s “chosen people”, making it the very center of their lives that they enlarged its meaning and scope that soon consisted of more than 600 other precepts and practices to observe and keep.

Obeying the laws and traditions became their standard for holiness so that instead of becoming a means to bring them closer to God and others, these became an end in itself that they have forgotten God and others in the process.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Into our hearts and the heart of Jesus

Once again, our gospel is so timely and relevant to our situation right now we are in the midst of a pandemic when we are told to always wash our hands. And if Jesus were with us in person today, he would surely speak the same things about the hypocrisy we have in our washing of hands!

First of all, let us clarify that Jesus is not against the washing of hands before eating nor of any of their other traditions and laws; what he criticized was the greater importance given by his enemies with the outward signs of their laws and traditions, forgetting its inner dynamics and meaning. Thus, he never failed to clarify with the people that he had “not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Mt.5:17).

Here we find the same problem with the people at Capernaum and in our own time when people fail and refuse to look beyond material things to find the meaning of what is going on around us, of what we believe in and what we practice.

Then and now – right in the midst of this pandemic – Jesus is inviting us to deeper perspectives about our concepts and ways of doing and seeing things, of what is clean and not clean, of what is tradition and modern, of what is good and evil.

Jesus wants us to constantly examine our lives for our need of conversion of our hearts to him. He is inviting us to probe our hearts and see who or what dwells inside us because from the heart, everything flows outside not only to our mouth (cf. Lk.6:45, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”) but also to our hands.

That is why I love that imagery of the heart between two arms and hands: the heart at the center of our being and consciousness that whatever comes out of the heart naturally flows to our arms and hands, even to our entire body. If there is something wrong in the heart, so with the messages it sends out.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils from within and they defile.”

Mark 7:14-15, 21-23

Here we find the essential question we must ask ourselves always: Do I find Jesus Christ in my heart as the sole basis and foundation of what I believe which I also say and do?

If we cannot find Jesus at the center of the things we do and believe, most likely we do not find others in the picture too! In that case, most likely, it is all about me, mine, my, and I! Like the Pharisees and scribes of his time, washing of hands and other traditions were more of a show than something more essential which is to serve God through one another.


Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, 
of our interior and spiritual motivations, 
of why we are doing the things we are doing, 
of what we really believe in; 
because, too often, many of the things we do and believe 
are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God.  
There are so many times in our lives 
that we simply do things out of habit 
and conventions without really understanding why.  

Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, of our interior and spiritual motivations, of why we are doing the things we are doing, of what we really believe in; because, too often, many of the things we do and believe are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God. There are so many times in our lives that we simply do things out of habit and conventions without really understanding why.

Simon Sinek said it so well in his bestselling book “Start with Why” – people buy products, patronize services, or are moved when they see the why you do things; they are willing to pay more not because of fad or prestige but more of the conviction in a belief espoused by a brand or company or by an individual.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images in Paranaque City, 09 February 2020.

Washing of hands and eating, our hidden hypocrisies

One of the most frequently asked question by people to me as a priest these days is why despite all our prayers, God has seemed become deaf to our pleas for him to end this pandemic? The answer is simple: unless we see and accept the spiritual realities of this COVID-19 pandemic, it would linger with us longer than projected, even not be solved at all as it gets worst with new variants that have thrown back even some of the most vaccinated nations lately.

We can have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands during this pandemic but COVID-19 will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. See all the abuses and corruption going on that is more sickening than the virus itself!

That washing of hands is an imagery full of meanings we have lost since the time of Jesus. Inwardly, the washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities.

So many times we have become like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to free himself from any guilt in sentencing Christ to death without realizing the more he had implicated himself to the injustice by refusing to make a stand for what is true and just. Like us today, we keep on washing our hands in the hope that our conscience would be at peace or be not bothered with our indifference for what is true and good.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

Washing of hands has always been closely related with eating which is an act of “appropriating something we cannot fully have” like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They took something they cannot wholly take or “swallow” that is why all they could do was just take a “bite” that opened their eyes to something they could not fully realize and appreciate. There are so many realities in this life we just cannot fully grasp right away, requiring us to have more faith, more patience in trusting God and those above us.

But, like Adam and Eve, we keep on taking a bite, of eating whatever our limited minds and reason find as “good” to have. And we wash our hands in clear hypocrisies like the Pharisees and scribes in worship and prayer when we lead double lives, when we laugh and cheer at all kinds of lies and filth, when we silently approve attacks against human life like tokhang and abortion.

Every day we wash our hands and keep them clean to avoid contaminating our food and body in hypocrisy as we agree and support in the name of “modernism” these trends of same sex relationships, promiscuity, and divorce. Or of graft and corruption we have resigned to accept as a fact of daily life.

To wash our hands is to wash our hearts clean of all kinds of evil, of mediocrity and indifference, of taking a stand to “pass over” from sin into grace by witnessing God’s goodness in our lives as Moses reminded Israel in the first reading.

The hands and the heart always go together as expressed in the Jewish thought of “mercy of the heart” and “mercy of the hand” when God’s mercy is more than a feeling but an act of righteousness, of justice and love.

Let us heed the reminder of the Apostle in the second reading to be truly clean in our hands and in our hearts: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:22, 27).

Stay safe everyone. Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.

Lead us, remind us, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXI, Year I in Ordinary Time, 25 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 2:9-13   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>  Matthew 23:27-32
Photo by the author, Capernaum along the shore of Lake of Galilee (Tiberias), 2017.
Times are getting more tough,
more difficult, and most painful
for us these days, God our loving Father.
We ask you only for one thing -
lead us to your Son Jesus Christ our Lord
as we pray:
Lead us, O Lord closer to you
to be like you - loving and caring
merciful and forgiving;
Lead us, O Lord to your words
and actualize them in our lives;
Lead us, O Lord in your Holy Spirit 
to work in us and through us
to bring life and joy, hope and inspiration
to those overshadowed with gloom
due to the pandemic.

And for this reason we too give thanks to God unceasingly, that, in receiving the word of God from hearing for us, you received it not as the word of men, but as it truly is, the word of God, which is now at work in you who believe.

1 Thessalonians 2:13
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
that the greatest impact we can have
in this life are not just the words we speak
but by the deeds of love and care,
compassion and dedication we show;
Remind us, Lord, that the real test
of our discipleship in you is not found
in what people say how good or holy we are
but that they themselves are led to the Father;
Remind us today, dearest Jesus
not to be hypocrites like the Pharisees
and scribes who only wanted to appear
beautiful outside but rotting inside (Mt.23:27).
Amen.
 

Words, words, words!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 19 August 2021
Judges 11:29-39   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 22:1-14
Photo by author, Jerusalem at dawn, May 2017.
God our loving Father,
please make me conscious
beginning today of every word
that I say, of its meaning and
implications; better, teach me
to be silent and still, to speak only
when necessary, avoiding especially
making any oath even before you.

Jephthah made a vow to the Lord. “If you deliver the Ammonites into my power,” he said, “whoever comes ot of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites shall belong to the Lord. I shall offer him up as a burnt offering. When Jephthah returned to his house in Mizpah (after defeating the Ammonites), it was his daughter who came forth, playing the tambourines and dancing. She was an only child: he had neither son nor daughter besides her. When he saw her, he rent his garments and said, “Alas, daughter, you have struck me down and brought calamity upon me. For I have made a vow to the Lord and I cannot retract.”

Judges 11:30-31, 34-35
"Words, words, words!" 
Like Hamlet, we read and say 
many words without meaning, 
falsely believing words become true
when multiplied and said over and over
not realizing the most powerful words
ever spoken where those borne out of
silence when you created everything.
Give us the grace, dear God,
to be like Jesus your Son, 
"the Word who became flesh"
to be a person of credibility
and integrity whose "yes" means "yes"
and "no" means "no" - always dressed
in "wedding garment" for your
banquet in heaven (cf.Mt.22:12-14).
Amen.

Entering the presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 27 July 2021
Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-9, 28   ><]]]]'>><]]]]'>><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:36-43
Photo by author, 2020.
As Moses entered the tent,
the column of cloud would come down
and stand at its entrance while the Lord
spoke with Moses.
The Lord used to speak to Moses
face to face, as one man speaks to another.
(Exodus 33:9, 11)
God our Father,
you never fail to surprise us;
thank you very much for 
our first ever Olympic gold
last night after another usual
frustrating afternoon at the SONA.
Hidilyn's record-breaking
performance last night 
at the Tokyo Olympics
tells us the same thing 
when Moses would enter
your tent to converse with you:
Nothing can replace
hard work and discipline;
there can be no substitute 
to sound mind and sound body
in order to achieve every goal
that we set in life and in public.
He said in reply,
"He who sows good seed
is the Son of Man,
the field is the world,
the good seed are 
the children of the Kingdom.
The weeds are the children
of the Evil One,
and the enemy who sows them
is the devil.  The harvest
is the end of the age, and 
the harvesters are angels."
(Matthew 13:37-39)
Give us the discipline
and perseverance, Lord Jesus
to always enter your presence
in prayer like Moses inside the tent
at the wilderness meeting God,
face to face, to face and fight evil.
Let us desire more silent moments
with the you, O Lord in order to
listen more to your words
that are not only transformative
but most of all, performative
in keeping us steadfast with your laws against sin.
We pray, O God
for our decision-makers and leaders,
for us all to always seek your will
by entering your presence in silent prayers
so we may hear clearly your words
and see your face.  Amen. 

Making room for God, finding our home in God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XVI, Year I, 23 July 2021
Exodus 20:1-17   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 13:18-23
“The Sower” by Van Gogh from commons.wikimedia.org
It has been raining for a week,
loving God and Father.
Farmers and sowers must be so
delighted to come out in the fields
to sow their seeds while we stay home
trying to keep ourselves dry and warm.
Help us to make room for you, dear Father,
to open up ourselves to the seeds 
of your presence that come to us daily
in your words in the Sacred Scriptures.
Let us be like the fertile soil in the parable
by Jesus "who hears the word and 
understands it, who indeed  bears fruit
and yields a hundred or sixty or 
thirtyfold."  (Matthew 13:23)
Your seed is always good
springing into life wherever it falls
for you alone, O God, is good!
How lovely it is to imagine
that all Ten Commandments sprang up
from just one seed that is YOU, dear Father -
You are the seed we always reject
when You are the seed we all need.
Whenever we choose to commit sin,
we take on other strange gods
and idols besides You that
we worship and follow.
May we open ourselves to You, God
welcoming you like a seed into our little room
so we may find home in You when it blooms.
Amen.