Praying for courage

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, Bishops, 26 January 2023
2 Timothy 1:1-8   ><]]]'> + <'[[[>< = ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Luke 10:1-9
Photo by author, 23 January 2023, at OLFU-Quezon City, Hilltop Mansion Heights.
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ,
grant us courage,
vanish our cowardice
to fill us with "power and love
and self-control" (cf. 2Tim.1:6).
If courage is having that
strength coming from the heart,
cowardice is losing one's heart,
of not having the heart to stand
and fight for what is true and good;
more tragic than physical cowardice
of being afraid of heights or the dark
are intellectual, emotional, and
spiritual cowardice.
In this age when everything
has become relative in the name of
pluralism and "respect" for everyone,
many Christians are afflicted with
spiritual cowardice,
so afraid to uphold your teachings
and examples, Lord, that in the process
have succumbed too to intellectual
cowardice, so afraid in discussing and
dissecting the many issues being raised
against our stand for life and decency,
truth and sanity.
Pray for us, 
Saints Timothy and Titus,
"to stir into flame the gift of God"
we have received in Baptism
so that we may "not be ashamed 
of our testimony" to Jesus
"but bear our share in the hardship
for the Gospel with the strength that 
comes from God" (1Tim.1:6, 8).
Amen.

Pray to not delay

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, 25 January 2023
Acts 22:3-16     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     Mark 16:15-18
Praise and glory
to you, O God our Father
for this glorious day of
celebration of the Feast of
Conversion of St. Paul, 
the 13th Apostle of Jesus Christ!
He is the perfect example of
your boundless mercy in Christ,
that every sinner can always be
a saint, that every sin can be
forgiven for your love is more
immense and vast than all the evils
that men do!
While St. Luke tells us of the vision
that led St. Paul to conversion,
the great Apostle himself tells us
it was more of an illumination
when God's light "has shone in our
hearts to bring to light the knowledge
of the glory of God on the face of 
Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. 4:6); moreover, 
St. Paul claimed conversion 
was a revelation and a vocation 
in the encounter with Jesus Christ 
that began "from my mother's womb" 
when God "had set me apart and 
called me through his grace, 
was pleased to reveal his Son to me, 
so that I may proclaim him
to the gentiles" (Gal. 1:15-16).

If we could just realize this most
wonderful truth like St. Paul 
that you have called us too 
while we were in our mother's womb
because you have a beautiful plan for us
in this world, in this life;
that we all have a special mission,
an important role,
and noble purpose in being 
alive, 
in being here
in this world! 
Therefore, Lord Jesus,
let us not delay our own 
conversion in the same manner
that Ananias told St. Paul after
regaining his sight in Damascus
that "The God of our ancestors 
designated you to know his will,
to see the Righteous One,
and to hear the sound of his voice;
for you will be his witness before
all to what you have seen and heard.
Now, why delay?  Get up and have
yourself baptized and your sins
washed away, calling upon his name"
(Acts 22:14-16).
Most of all, dear Jesus,
like St. Paul, may we put you
at the center of our lives so that
our identity is marked by our
encounter with you,
by communion in your Person
and with your Word; help us reach
that wonderful stage of conversion
when like St. Paul we begin to see everything
considered as value is just a loss and refuse
(Phil. 3:7-10) because you, O Lord,
is the only essential, the most precious
one we can ever have in this life; hence,
place all our energy and being 
at your service, dear Jesus and your Gospel 
so that eventually, we may truly be
your Apostle, becoming 
"all things to all men" or 
"omnia omnibus"
(1 Cor. 9:19-23).
Amen.

From shadow to image

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, Bishop & Doctor of the Church, 24 January 2023
Hebrews 10:1-10   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><  -  ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 3:31-35
God our loving Father,
help us grow from being 
your shadows into your
image and icon among peoples;
thank you for sending us
your Son Jesus Christ who came
to do your will of offering his
very self as a sacrifice for the
forgiveness of our sins
so that in the process,
we too may learn to
offer ourselves to you, 
surrender ourselves wholly to
you like Jesus to become your mirror.

Brothers and sisters: Since the law has only a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of them, it can never make perfect those those who come to worship by the same sacrifices that they offer continually each year. Then he (Jesus) says, Behold, I come to do your will. He takes away the first to establish the second. By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the Body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:1, 9-10
There are times, dear Jesus,
that I listen and speak of your words, 
very much "inside" with you
in the church, 
in our community,
among our family and friends;
but sadly, Lord, I am so far
from doing the will of the Father
after listening and preaching
your words.
Teach me to be like your Mother,
Mary:  though she was "outside"
that house where you were staying
teaching the people gathered around you,
she was very much "inside",
in you in her total identification with you
and your mission until the end.
Enable me, Jesus,
like St. Francis de Sales
who used to have a fiery temper
and problem in handling his anger
to surrender myself to you,
to make the Father's will my own,
experience liberation from sin
and sanctification in your Spirit
to become united as one in 
the Father, his mirror
and image.
Amen.

Praying for openness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 23 January 2023
Hebrews 9:15, 24-28   <*{{{>< + ><}}}*> = <*{{{>< + ><}}}*>   Mark 3:22-30
There is something so beautiful
the author of the Letter to the Hebrews
had said this Monday about your
high priesthood, Lord Jesus Christ:

Christ is mediator of a new covenant… For Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself that he might now appear before God on our behalf.

Hebrews 9:15, 24
Indeed, Lord Jesus Christ you have opened
the heaven for us sinful children of God;
by your supreme sacrifice there
on the Cross on Good Friday,
we were cleansed of our sins
and made holy to share
in your eternal
glory.
Yet, our minds and our hearts remain
closed to this beautiful reality;
like the scribes who had come
to see for themselves
your words and you works, O Lord,
many of us not only refuse to believe you
but have in fact accused you of
 many blasphemies like being possessed
by Beelzebul!
But you are so open, O Lord,
with all these false accusations
and blasphemies against you;
there on the Cross, the first words you spoke
was of forgiveness for your enemies who do not
know what they were doing;
what a unique gesture not only of
understanding but of openness
even to us sinners.
Grant us the grace, Jesus,
to have an open mind,
an open heart,
and openness to God's work
in us and among us;
enable us to admit
and come to you to ask forgiveness,
to be open to your grace,
and most especially
open to learning and discovering
new things in life,
most especially to being open
to your coming,
to your mercy
for we are all weak
and sinful.
Amen.

Ordinary order of things & life

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Third Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 22 January 2023
Isaiah 8:23-9:3 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, 17 ><}}}*> Matthew 4:12-23
Photo by author, sunrise at Lake Tiberias, Israel, 2017.

As we move deeper into Ordinary Time this Third Sunday, let us first clarify the word “ordinary” because for most people especially us Filipinos, we take anything – even anyone – labelled as “ordinary” as being plain, common and not special; hence, always taken for granted, regarded as low and inferior like the ordinary ice cream sorbetes called ‚Äúdirty ice cream” because it is peddled by an ordinary man, the Mamang Sorbetero.

From the Latin words ordo, ordin for order and ordinarius for orderly, the word “ordinary” implies orderliness. Nowhere does it suggest being bland, usual and nothing special. In fact, it is the standard or norm of everything, being the rule of how things should be.

The same holds true when we say Ordinary Time in our liturgy – that time outside the special seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter that make up the main bulk of the whole liturgical calendar with 34 weeks. It is in the Ordinary Time when the call and challenge of holiness and maturity in Christ is actually fought and won being the ordinary order of things and of life itself.

That is what our gospel this Sunday is telling us, of how upon the arrest of John the Baptist when Jesus began his public ministry, his ordinary life. The bad news of John’s beheading by Herod did not deter Jesus from fulfilling his mission. Later, he would show us in his life that persecution and suffering are the ordinary way of life of his followers.

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Napthali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled.

Matthew 4:12-14
Photo by author, ruins of the synagogue at Capernaum, Israel, 2017.

It is interesting to note that the verb for “arrest” used in the original Greek text of Matthew’s gospel is paradidomi which is to “hand over.” This is the theme word used many times in the gospel like John the Baptist handed over and executed by Herod; Jesus, too, was handed over and executed by both the Jews and Romans; and finally, most of the disciples of Jesus were also handed over and executed by both Gentiles and Jews.

The opening line of today’s gospel is telling us something very ordinarily happening – the “handing over” of followers of Jesus right even into our own time. It is the ordinary order of things for every disciple of Christ, of being arrested, of being handed over, of being persecuted as the Lord has assured us in his teachings. Wherever the gospel truth is proclaimed in words and in deeds, there will always be arrests and handing over.

Even in our Eucharistic celebration, there is this “handing over” when the priest says at the consecration “Take this all of you and eat it. This is my body which will be given up for you.” Being “given up” from the Latin tradetur also means “to be handed over” like the Greek paradidomi. During the Mass, the Body of Christ is handed over to us while we his Body are sent forth to continue that handing over of ourselves to others in loving service of the Gospel and Kingdom of God.

Notice the solemn tone of Matthew in telling us how Jesus began his ministry upon learning the arrest of John the Baptist. It is not that Jesus did not care at all to his cousin and precursor but more of a reminder to us that it is the ordinary course of things for any of his follower – of being arrested, being handed over! Keep that in mind.

Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, Israel, 2019.

Despite this prevalence of arrests and being handed over, we disciples of Christ must go on to continue following him even in the most unusual and unexpected places and situations with more arrests and handing over of us and those dearest to us daily.

Many times in life, the most ordinary leads us to the most extraordinary surprises like when Matthew told us how Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum in Galilee upon learning the arrest of John. It was not a smart move for Jesus, so to speak; Nazareth was already backward and unknown town where Jesus grew up as Nathanael attested when he told Philip matter-of-factly “can anything good come from Nazareth?” and here was Jesus, moving to another unpopular town called Capernaum in the province of Galilee. It was so remote and not an ideal town and province to launch something so grand like the kingdom of God because it was literally a “hotbed” of troubles at that time. People there were rebellious while Jews were not noted for their pious observance of their religion as well as its rites and rituals.

But, it is another example of God turning the most ordinary into the most extraordinary when Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading of how the Messiah or the Christ as the light of the world would come from that dark province of Galilee.

Along the way of this life, it is the most ordinary circumstances when we have to change courses, change our ways like Jesus who moved from Nazareth to Capernaum in Galilee near those areas of Gentiles or pagans, of those forgotten by the society like the poor and marginalized that we have to hand over too from darkness into light, from sin into grace, from slavery into freedom, from nothingness to God.

Many times in life, God brings us to strange situations and places we find so ordinary, not ideal for our goals in life but eventually, we realize them as perfect sites for us. What is most important is that we have that deep faith in God as we continue to answer his calls and fulfill our mission. We have the most precious thing in life with us in Jesus, his Gospel of salvation!

Let us keep our focus on Jesus who is himself the kingdom of God. St. Paul tells us in the second reading how often we are misled by our many divisions caused by our failure to focus on Jesus. That is why Christ’s first prerequisite in following him is to repent, to change our ways not only outside but most especially inside of us, to be converted not once but daily. To repent is to cleanse our inner selves of the many impurities that prevent us from finding Jesus in the ordinary. See how Jesus came in the lives of his first disciples in their most ordinary moments working as fishermen.

Jesus ordinarily comes to us in the simplest and usual circumstances. It is not really a question of having some great experiences but always finding the meaning of every experience we have in life, no matter how simple or great it may be. Amazingly, we have seen many times in life that its deeper meanings are often found in the most ordinary experiences we have had.

Photo by author, Lake Galilee, 2019.

I like the way Jesus told the brothers Simon and Andrew “I will make you fishers of men” – a masterful use of the ordinary into something very extraordinary that prompted the brothers along with Zebedee’s sons James and John to leave everything behind to follow Jesus.

Why? Because they have found and experienced the beauty and challenge of the kingdom of God, of the Gospel right there in their midst, in their being fishermen! They must have long been searching for meaning in their lives. Maybe, like many of us, they have been growing tired with the “ordinary” only to find Jesus in the most ordinary and everything changed!

Most often, it is our very self who is most ordinary whom we take for granted without realizing Jesus already inside us, calling us to change our ways, to repent and be converted to find him and follow him. This is where a lot of arrests and handing overs happen — right inside our very selves when we have to let go of past, of aches and hurts, of failures and defeats and setbacks, and of our being unforgiving.

It is very ordinary for each one of us to be imperfect but it is in those imperfections Christ comes daily to call us to perfection. Let us pray:

God our loving Father,
you sent us your Son Jesus Christ
as an ordinary like us to be one 
with us in our suffering, pains and even death, 
so that in his resurrection we may share in his
extraordinary glory; please help us, dear Jesus,
to embrace wholeheartedly our humanity, our frailties;
cleanse us our impurities, 
of our sins,
of our narrow-mindedness
and biases that make us
resist your call to repentance;
let us submit ourselves to your
authority, Lord Jesus, beginning
with the most ordinary things in life
like leaving behind everything that we have
inn order to have you,
always you,
only you.
Amen.
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee, 2017.

Being new & renewed

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 20 January 2023
Hebrews 8:6-13   <*(((>< + ><)))*> + <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Mark 3:13-19
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Praise and gratitude to you,
our loving Father for this day 
filled with newness,
when everything is new -
new lease on life,
new hopes,
new joys,
new opportunities,
new blessings,
new friends to meet,
new problems to solve,
new situations to deal with,
new chances to grow and mature,
new me!
Most of all,
a new day to renew
your new covenant in Jesus!

Brothers and sisters: Now our high priest (Jesus Christ) has obtained so much more excellent a ministry as he is mediator of a better covenant, enacted on better promises. When he speaks of “new” covenant, he declares the first one obsolete. and what has become obsolete and has grown old is close to disappearing.

Hebrews 8:6, 13
Thank you, dear Jesus,
for your gift of call,
in renewing your call
every new day to be
your disciple,
your apostle like 
the Twelve;
let me value and
treasure, and
nurture your call,
Jesus, by growing
closer to you;
help me overcome
my sinful past
to welcome every
graceful present
in you even at the Cross;
let me renew myself
to you today,
to focus more on you
amid our many differences.
How ironic, dear Jesus,
when we were younger
we love and welcome 
everything that is new;
as we get older, the more
we refuse to let go of the old
to give way to new
like YOU who is ever new
and radiant!
Amen.
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee(Tiberias), Israel, 2017.

Hearing, coming

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 19 January 2023
Hebrews 7:25-8:6   <'000>< + ><000'> + <'000>< + ><000'>   Mark 3:7-12
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2022.
Open our ears and our hearts,
God our loving Father, 
to always hear your voice,
to heed your calls in Jesus Christ
so that like the people in the gospel
we too may come to him.

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.

Mark 3:7-8
In the fourth gospel, John
tells us how Jesus invited 
Andrew and companion to
"come and see" where he stayed;
in a beautiful manner, Mark
tells us today how people
"heard and came" to Jesus!
"Coming" to you, O Lord,
is always accompanied either
by seeing as a result of coming
or by hearing that leads to coming.
How ironic,
even ridiculous
in our time with all the earphones
and earplugs and pods stacked in
our ears listening, hearing the 
cacophony of sounds and noise
of the world and everyone peddling
lies after lies but we would not 
even bother to hear nor listen 
to the gospel and stories of Jesus Christ!
In fact, we are so busy listening
to others and the world without
ever hearing our true selves
at all!
Teach us to listen,
to hear and follow your
voice and calls, dear Jesus
for you alone is our perfect 
mediator, our perfect high priest
"who is always able to save those
who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make 
intercessions for them" (Heb. 7:25).
Refine our listening
pleasures and abilities
that touch our very core
not just our senses,
massaging our ego;
may we have the courage
to hear and listen to what is
true and just, no matter how
painful they may be
for it is only in that way
we can be healed of our
many diseases and maladies.
Amen.

Praying, working for peace

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 18 January 2023
Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17   ><)))*> + <*(((>< - ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 3:1-6
Photo by author, Ubihan Is., Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Beginning today 
until next Wednesday,
Mother Church invites us 
to observe the Week of Prayer
for Christian Unity especially
for the evangelization of peoples
and for the persecuted Christians
around the world; may our prayers
lead us to work for peace
most especially in our home,
in our parish and community,
and in our country.
May we stop and
put an end to those cliches
of wishing for peace like in 
most beauty contests that 
make a mockery of peace;
may we realize that peace is
God's greatest gift to us which
we have often taken for granted,
something God freely gives 
if we are willing to give up and
sacrifice our very selves
for the sake of peace like
Abraham in the Old Testament.

Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, met Abraham as he returned from his defeat of the kings and blessed him. And Abraham apportioned to him a tenth of everything. His name means righteous king, and he was also “king of Salem,” that is, king of peace.

Hebrews 7:1-2
Peace finally came to us
in Christ Jesus who is likened
to Melchizedek, God's high priest
in the Old Testament; like Melchizedek,
Jesus is our High Priest for he is
"without father, mother, or ancestry,
without beginning of days or 
end of life" (Heb.7:3); but,
unlike Melchizedek, Jesus is our
High Priest because he is 
the Son of God who offered himself
for us as a sacrifice, dying on the
Cross but rose to life on the 
third day!  On the evening of that
Easter, Jesus appeared to his
disciples, greeting them with
"peace" as his precious gift of
his resurrection.
Loving Father,
give us the grace to
value this immense gift 
of peace by Jesus Christ
won through his Cross;
like Jesus, may we choose
the path of peace by doing
what is good not evil;
of choosing persons not 
things and rituals and laws;
of choosing God above all
than selfish interests.
As we close our hands to pray
for peace and unity, may we learn
to let go of whatever we are holding,
of being empty handed like Jesus;
like that man with withered hand
Jesus healed in the temple on a sabbath,
may we stretch out our hands to reach
out to those in need,
to those persecuted,
to those sick and dying,
to those forgotten.
Let your peace, O God,
begin within me,
right in my heart empty of
pride, filled with the humility,
justice, and love of Jesus.
Amen.

God remembers… don’t quit!

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 17 January 2023
Hebrews 6:10-20     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Mark 2:23-28
This prayer I offer 
for those losing hope,
wanting to quit and leave,
losing patience and sense
in all their efforts for the
betterment of others and the world,
for those disappointed or frustrated,
for those always on the distaff side,
always seen as odd and weird
because of their firm stand for
their beliefs and values:
remind them, Father, 
that you are aware of all their
noble efforts for the uplifting
of lives of many,
for their fight for justice
and truth.

Brothers and sisters: God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love you have demonstrated for his name by having served and continuing to serve the holy ones.

Hebrews 6:10
Dearest Jesus,
you know so well
how difficult and even
painful to remind people 
of their giftedness,
of their dignity,
of their honor;
many times, we feel tired
and sad at how others see us
and all our efforts for their good;
we are not asking for quick fixes
nor shortcuts for we know that indeed,
doing your work is never easy,
it is always a process;
all we are asking is rest,
a break perhaps
like your apostles one sabbath
who picked the heads of grain;
many times like the Pharisees
people give more emphasis and
importance to rites and rituals,
to rules and laws without any regard
for persons.
Lord Jesus,
remind us always that when
people fail to see our personhood,
our self-dedication to you and
your works,
remind us to never sag in spirits,
to never be sluggish
but instead be filled with more
fire and ardor in doing your work
until they realize that "The sabbath
was made for man, not man for 
sabbath.  That is why the Son of Man
is lord even of the sabbath"
(Mark 2:27-28).
Amen.

Something old, something new

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 16 January 2023
Hebrews 5:1-10     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Mark 2:18-22
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father,
for this brand new day
to begin anew in life,
to bridge and process
our past so we may live fully
in every present moment 
as we project our future.
Beginning today,
teach us in Christ Jesus your Son
the need for us to understand fully
and put into practice his teaching
"new wine is poured into
fresh wineskins" (Mk.2;22).
Enable us to always welcome change,
to find you coming to us in new
and often unexpected situations or
things and persons;
may we learn to bridge,
in fact become a bridge like Jesus,
the old and new,
the past and the present,
God and your people:
"In the days when he was in the Flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications
with loud cries and tears to the one
who was able to save him from death,
and he was heard because of his reverence.
Son though he was, he learned obedience
from what he suffered; and when he was made
perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey him" (Hebrews 5:7-9).
Dear Jesus,
teach me to have new perspectives,
new outlook in life in you,
by focusing more on you,
by believing in you,
in seeking and following you,
most of all, 
in seeing everything in you
so that I may learn to accept 
things of old
like pains and sufferings,
need for trials and difficulties
so that I may grow in
strength and maturity,
love and compassion
like you.
Amen.