Free and faithful in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle-C, 26 June 2022
1 Kings 19:16, 19-21 ><]]]]'> Galatians 5:1, 13-18 ><]]]]'> Luke 9:51-54
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

“Free and Faithful in Christ” by the late Redemptorist Fr. Bernard Haring is one of my favorite textbooks in the seminary that I have kept all these years not because I love moral theology but due to its title I have found so true especially in life and ministry.

The more we love Jesus and others, the more we become free, the more we become faithful and committed to God and others, the more we become trusting too.

For many people, commitment and freedom do not seem to jibe well because they think freedom is being able to do whatever you want, that freedom is absolute. Of course not! St. John Paul II clarified in Veritatis Splendor that since the beginning, God had limited freedom to choosing only what is good when he told Adam and Eve they were free to eat all fruits in the garden except the fruit of the tree of knowledge.

True freedom is not defying our parents and authorities to insist on what we want, regardless of the well-being of others like driving recklessly that harm those on the streets or posting pictures and statements in social media without respecting other people’s beliefs and sensibilities.

We can only be truly free as a person if we care for other people by seeing them as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters. But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love.

Galatians 5:1, 13
Photo by author, wailing wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Jesus, the one truly free

After two Sundays of celebrating the Solemnities of the Trinity and of the Body and Blood of Jesus, we finally feel the Ordinary Time with our green motif this Sunday that shall continue until November before we end the liturgical calendar with Christ the King to usher in Advent Season and Christmas, which is just six months away from today.

But before thinking of the merry December, we are reminded this Sunday of our journey in life with Jesus guided by Luke who expertly expressed the tempo of Ordinary Time which implies the importance of being free and faithful in Christ:

When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem, and he sent messengers ahead of him. On the way they entered a Samaritan village to prepare for his reception there, but they would not welcome him because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.

Luke 9:51-56

Here we find the complete freedom of Jesus Christ, his fidelity and commitment to his mission from the Father to be fulfilled in Jerusalem where he would face death to rise again and usher in new life in him, new relationships with God and with others.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

I love the way Luke wrote our opening lines of the gospel this Sunday which shows the total freedom of Jesus in fulfilling his mission, his fidelity and love to the Father, “When the days for Jesus’ being taken up were fulfilled, he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem”. There was no turning back for Jesus, no second thoughts about going to Jerusalem where he knew so well he would be arrested and killed. Jesus was totally free and faithful in his love for us and to the Father.

It is the same route, the same journey we take daily with Jesus to Jerusalem where we suffer and die with him in our fidelity to our vows and promises, to our loved ones, to our Motherland, and to God our Father. Like Jesus Christ, we must be focused on the mission of love, finding ways to accomplish it instead of entertaining fancy thoughts of display of powers as proposed by the brothers James and John at a Samaritan village they were rejected. To think of getting even with a revenge against bad people is not only a waste of time and energy but most of all means we are not free at all, that we are enslaved by evil and sin, by our emotions. A true disciple of the Lord leaves everything to God, especially the punishment of those who harm and do us wrong. Being resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem like Jesus is having complete faith in him that he would take care of us, that we need not worry at all of petty things like power and wealth, fame and glory.

Being free and faithful, resolutely determined like Christ

Of course, there would always be occasional “stops” for rests in the Lord along the way with some “perks” of serving him though not always in the way the world offers it. Luke would always narrate in his gospel how Jesus would ask his disciples to have some time for themselves in deserted places to rest and pray.

Being free and faithful in Christ, resolutely determined to go to Jerusalem means to go opposite the way of the world which is a folly in the eyes of human wisdom characterized by those ads shouting out to everyone to “Just do it” or “Obey your thirst”, putting premiums on wealth and power, popularity and comfort.

Photo by author, “homeless Christ” at the entrance to Capernaum, the Holy Land, 02 May 2019.

To follow Jesus to Jerusalem is to die daily to our comforts for we are not tourists but pilgrims on earth without fixed or permanent dwelling because our true home is in heaven. This is the first thing Jesus clarifies with anyone wishing to join him in his journey, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Lk.9:58).

That is the reason we priests do not get married, trying to lead simple lives without the trappings of the material world to show everyone what is life in heaven. But, how free and faithful are we in keeping our vows of the priesthood is another topic….


Being free and faithful in Christ is to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ” as St. Benedict would insist to his followers in Rules which is the gist of the shocking reply of Jesus to the second man who asked him permission to bury first his dead father so he could follow him.

When Jesus told the man “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk.19:60), he was speaking about the perennial sickness of many religious people who are tied up with their religious laws without realizing its intentions like justice and love. Many times, we practice our faith without really believing in God but believing more in our laws and rituals that we forget the persons we must love. Paul expressed it so well in his letter to the Romans when he wrote, “Owe nothing to anyone except love for the one who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law” (13:8).


Being and free and faithful in Christ means having Jesus and only Jesus as our priority in life. Notice how the third man came to Jesus wising to follow him but “first let me say farewell to my family at home” (Lk.9:61). It is very clear that for him his priority was his family which is exactly the opposite of what Christ tells us that anyone who loves his father and mother, brother or sister more than him is not worthy to be his disciple.

Jesus is not telling us to disregard our family, especially the fourth Commandment of God; Jesus here is emphasizing the primacy of the gospel, of himself. It is not an issue about morality but keeping our eyes fixed on the Lord we must follow completely like Paul who declared how he had come to consider “everything as a loss” in knowing Christ (Phil.3:8).

It is totally different from the context of Elisha who asked Elijah’s permission to bid goodbye to his family before joining him; see how he slaughtered the oxen he used in farming with his implements as firewood in cooking a meal for Elijah. Elisha literally did what Jesus told the third man trying to join him by burning his plow, indicating his resolute determination to fulfill God’s mission as his prophet by not looking back to his past life.

Jerusalem as seen from the Mount of Olives with a Jewish cemetery at the foreground facing its eastern wall where the Messiah is believed would pass through when he comes. It is the very route Jesus had taken more than 2000 years ago on Palm Sunday before his Passion, Death and Resurrection. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.

When Ordinary Time started in January and was briefly paused until three weeks ago by Lent and Easter Seasons, we have already embarked in the journey of Jesus beginning around the shores of Galilee.

As we resume the Ordinary Time with Jerusalem as destination, Jesus continues to invite us to come and follow him. His call is very simple. Follow me. And, it is sometimes funny that the first time we accepted his invitation, we just followed him without even saying yes. Oh, how free and faithful we were!

But, after many detours and changes of directions along with the many trials and sufferings, we begin to ask questions, seeking clarifications, wondering if we should still continue or just leave and go back to our old ways.

What, who is holding us from being totally free and faithful to Christ?

May the love of Jesus guide us and increase our faith in him so we may also be resolutely determined, free and faithful to continue with him in this journey to fullness of life in him. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz in San Miguel, Bulacan, 15 June 2022.

Faithful, and most loving!

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
A Wedding Homily for Cristopher T. San Pedro & Fatima Macam
National Shrine of St. Jude, Manila, 22 February 2022
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

You must have heard the saying that “God writes straight crooked lines”. And today that proves so true not only with how God wrote so crooked his straight lines in your life, Cris and Tim, but even wrote in circles to make this date your wedding day – 22 February 2022!

Cris and Tim, God has always been so sure in calling you before his altar on this date, which will similarly happen again in 200 years – 22 February 2222!

God writes straight crooked lines because everything in him is perfect, like numbers. Precise and exact.

Like this date you never chose, 02-22-2022.

When you consulted me last month when priests here offered you this date due to their recent lockdown, right away I told you it is the most wonderful date for your wedding being the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair… St. Peter as in San Pedro like Cristopher Tabafunda San Pedro and later, Mrs. Fatima Macam San Pedro!

It was God who willed in all eternity that you, Cris and Tim, be married today — not last year, not the other week nor next week because today is the day that the Lord has made!

From Facebook of couple.

You are both good with numbers like God, a mathematician who is very precise and exact like an economist and stock trader (Cris) and a marketing and sales executive (Tim) who used to do a lot of chemical research before.

But God has better and deeper plans for you that numbers cannot count nor quantify.

God wants you to always go back to basic numbers, not to those found in equations only you two can understand or multiple digits only you can count.

Jesus said it so well in the gospel today: two is equal to one, just like 1 + 1 + 1 = 1 of the Trinity.

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.”

Matthew 19:5-6

Life is not about having the most but the least. That is where faith grows and deepens.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

When we have so much in life, when we feel so sufficient, when we are so filled with things, we forget God. We stop believing in him, we believe more in ourselves.

And when we stop believing in God, we lose our faith and then, we stop loving, too. Sooner or later, we become empty and miserable.

So, be simple, Cris and Tim.

Reduce everything to the barest and simplest. Simplify, simplify, simplify as Henry David Thoreau said: “let your affairs be two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand.”

When we get complicated like our Facebook, life becomes difficult as we can’t find right away who and what matters most to us.

Kaya nga isa lang ang asawa, Cris at Tim, kasi hindi puwede marami. Hindi lang magulo. Magastos pa. Imagine kung dalawa o tatlo wedding rings? Pag isa lang, kita agad at alam na this – married na ang mamang ito na may cute na dimple o itong girl na ito na naka glasses at dalawa pa ang dimples! Hayaan ninyo sabihin ng mga makakita singsing ninyo na sayang at taken na pala siya!

You see, the lower the number, the simpler, the better. Madaling tumaya at manampalataya.

That’s faith. Parang PBA game kung saan kayo nagkakilala. And you have both experienced, walang tatalo sa faith in God ninyong dalawa!

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

God is greater and more than the numbers the wizkids and supercomputers of the world can calculate and predict. His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways. He first created just one man and one woman – just two – to be one with each other in him, and to be faithful to him and each other.

Because the more we become faithful, the more we become loving.

That is the message of this Feast of the Chair of St. Peter which is the “Primacy of Rome” or of the Pope: it is the primacy of faith and the primacy of love together which cannot be separated.

Forget all those numbers Cris and Tim, focus only in the One – God in Jesus Christ. Just focus on Jesus, always Jesus.

Love is not about counting or keeping tabs and tallies, like how many “likes” and “followers” we get in our posts.

The true measure of love is when we love without measure, when we simply love, love, love. And love.

That is why we only have one heart so we can love with all our heart. Forget Sana Dalawa ang Puso Ko. It is just a song.

When you have LQ (lover’s quarrel), who should blink first, or smile? Who should take the first move to reconcile, the first to offer the hand of peace?

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, 21 February 2022.

Whenever lovers and couples or even friends quarrel, I always say, whoever has more love to give must be the first one to initiate reconciliation, the first to blink, or smile, the first to offer the hand of peace.

To have the most love to give and share does not mean to be better or superior than the other; to have the most love to give and share is to have more faith, to have a deeper faith the he/she is ready and willing to lose everything for the sake of the loved one.

Like Jesus Christ who gave everything for us on that Cross because of love.

God bless you more, Cris and Tim.

Amen.

Faith + works = discipleship

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 February 2022
James 2:14-24, 26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 8:34-9:1
Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.
Awaken us, O Lord,
from our mistake and
error of insisting 
that our pious and religious 
exercises are the "good works"
that express our faith in you;
let us realize that it is not 
enough that we simply 
celebrate Mass, recite the
Rosary, join processions and
pilgrimages and keep other 
devotions that make us good
practicing Catholics; these are
not the good works that St. James
is asking from us in the first reading:
faith is the true living out 
of our faith in you, Jesus Christ!

For just as a body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:26
True faith in you,
O Lord, is forgetting 
one's self to reach out
to those in need, fighting
for justice and peace,
being more loving and kind,
forgiving and understanding
of others just like you, dear Jesus.
True faith in you,
dear Jesus, is being 
your disciple which is  
a call to deny one's self,
to take up one's cross in life,
and to follow YOU always
(Mark 8:34).
Give me the grace
this day, Jesus, 
to sincerely look into
myself and examine 
how true is my
faith in you, 
how my very life
and actions reveal
the faith I have
or simply do not have
at all.  Amen.

Making the Kingdom a reality

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the First Week of Advent, 29 November 2021
Isaiah 2:1-5   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Matthew 8:5-11
Photo by author, Basic Education Department Chapel, Our Lady of Fatima University, 28 November 2021.
Praise and glory to you,
loving God our Father in heaven
in giving us your beloved Son
Jesus Christ who had come, 
now comes, and would come again
at the end of time.
In him you have fulfilled your promised
liberation and establishment of a "temple
as the highest mountain and raised above
the hills" where "all nations shall stream
toward it and many peoples shall come"
(Isaiah 2:2-3) to worship you and follow
your path.

O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!

Isaiah 2:5
As Christians, we still have a lot
of work to do to bring the spirit of 
Jesus Christ and his Gospel into the
world to make this more humane, 
where peace and justice reign; 
remind us that Christmas is more
than mere celebrations and parties
or shopping and gift-giving.
In this Season of Advent, teach us to
reflect on the real meaning of your
coming, dear God, in Jesus who became
human like us to live and work among us;
Christ has not failed in his mission -- it is
us who have done so little to carry on,
to continue what he had began like bringing
healing and comfort to those afflicted and
suffering, joy and forgiveness to those losing
hope in the face of many sins and evil.
It is true, O Lord, that "we are not worthy to
have you enter under my roof but only say 
the word and we shall be healed" (Matthew
8:8); let us listen and respond to your 
invitation and calls, Jesus, filled with faith like
that centurion so that eventually, your Kingdom
may become a full reality among us.  Amen.

Praying our religions bring us together, not apart

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon and Companions, Martyrs, 20 September 2021
Ezra 1:1-6   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 8:16-18
Photo from en.wikipedia.org.
On this blessed Monday
as we celebrate dear God our Father
the Memorial of the first Korean priest,
St. Andrew Kim Taegon and his companion
martyrs led by St. Paul Chong Hasang,
we pray you may bless like King Cyrus of 
ancient Persia more world leaders 
and most especially heads of many 
religions to be instruments of unity
instead of divisions.

In the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue this proclamation throughout his kingdom, both by word of mouth and in writing: “Thus says Cyrus, king of Persia: ‘All kingdoms of the earth the Lord, the God of heaven, has given to me, and he has also charged me to build him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Therefore, whoever among you belongs to any part of his people, let him go up, and may his God be with him!'”

Ezra 1:1-3
How sad, O God
that throughout history
up to the present time,
men have ironically waged
wars on other peoples and nations
primarily in the name of their God,
instead of bringing love and understanding,
they have caused so much hatred
and sufferings; the only truth proven
that in war, nobody wins except
more coffins are nailed with
beloved children inside as victims
and casualties. 

Jesus said to the crowd, “No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light.”

Luke 8:16
Dear Jesus,
enlighten our minds
and our hearts with your light
in the Holy Spirit
to illumine the world with
more love and acceptance
of each other and their faith;
please, like King Cyrus of ancient Persia,
may we all realize that our religion
should bring us closer to each other
and not bring us apart.
Amen.

Knowing Jesus with conviction

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIV-B in Ordinary Time, 12 September 2021
Isaiah 50:5-9 ><]]]]'> James 2:14-18 ><]]]]'> Mark 8:27-35
Photo by author, Parish of St. Joseph, Baras, Rizal (January 2021).

Last Wednesday as we celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a friend told me how on the eve of that feast her eldest son Andrei expressed to her his wish to gift Mama Mary with a cake but did not know how to get to heaven. “Bibili ko sana siya ng cake, mommy, pero paano ako mapupunta sa langit?”

My friend simply told her son how difficult it is to get into heaven because he has to get so many ladders to get there and see Mama Mary and Jesus.

What a beautiful question from a child filled with innocence, “how do we get into heaven?”

Ironically, it is a question we all know the answer but do not care nor take seriously for many reasons, primarily because of fear until this pandemic hit us, forcing us into facing again this reality of death – of going into heaven.

In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us how we can get into heaven by knowing him truly with conviction, not just according to our own or somebody else’s thinking and ideas of him as the Christ.

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.

Mark 8:27-31

Other’s opinion vs. my conviction

When we look at the gospel of Mark as a whole, we find it is a step-by-step revelation of who is Jesus Christ, following certain stages in his stories. Notice since the beginning Mark has been telling us how the people including the Twelve were asking among themselves who was Jesus for he spoke with authority that even the sea and the wind obeyed him while demons cried when exorcised by him. People were so amazed at his great powers, both in words and in deeds that everybody was getting near him to know him.

Photo by author, St. Catherine Monastery at Sinai, Egypt (May 2019)

It is at Caesarea Philippi where Mark’s gospel reaches the middle section, a turning point when Jesus reveals himself in stages.

From here on, Mark will take a faster pace in his narration and revelation of who is Jesus now making a U-turn from Caesarea Philippi to head towards Jerusalem to face his death. We too are expected to make a U-turn in our knowledge of Jesus, from mere opinions of others to a personal conviction of who Jesus is.

Observe the step-by-step manner by Jesus in revealing himself to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi.

First, Jesus surveyed the Twelve, asking them “Who do people say that I am?”.

Feel the uncertainty among them while telling Jesus what they have heard the people saying: John the Baptist? Elijah? One of the prophets?

We find a tinge of being unsure even in themselves in what to tell the Lord because they have also heard the questions and accusations by the scribes and Pharisees against their young teacher. “Kabado sila” as we say in Filipino.

But to their surprise, Jesus came up with a second question directly to each one of them at point blank, requiring a deep, personal conviction and commitment: “But who do you say that I am?”.

Like at Capernaum after the bread of life discourse when everybody left Jesus led by his disciples, here he is asking the Twelve -including us – again for a faith decision, to say what we really feel and think about him, without repeating what we have heard from others or read from any book.

Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” See in this statement by Peter the clear difference from the people’s opinions of Jesus. Feel the conviction of Peter in declaring “you are the Christ.” There must have been something he had experienced deep within that he felt Jesus so real, so new, so alive – not just any prophet from old who had come back but in fact the very one referred to by the prophets before!

Jesus is clearly distinct and different from what we have heard and read, so personal and so true. As we would usually tell others of how convinced we are of someone or something, “ah, basta!” which is akin to Archimedes’ “eureka” experience.

Like at Caesarea Philippi, our lives get on a turning point significantly once we have had that kind of experience of who Jesus Christ is. We can never grow deep in our faith in him and experience him personally without that Caesarea Philippi experience.

However, it is not everything. Even Peter would falter immediately after this turning point.

He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Mark 8:32-33
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

Christ’s pedagogy of the Cross

It is not enough that we set aside sometimes what others say or write about Jesus; we also have to discard and forget whatever we have entertained in our minds and hearts on who Jesus could be. In telling Peter to “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”, Jesus is telling us too that it is still a long way to go for us to truly know him.

Remember that in Jewish thought, to know someone is to have a relationship, an intimacy with the other person. Although the disciples have already taken a great step in knowing Jesus as the Christ following Peter’s confession that is so distinct from what others say, such knowledge leads us to the hardest and most difficult stage of knowing Jesus through his Cross.

It is can also be the most painful stage in truly knowing Jesus that is why he warned them not to tell anyone about him like what Peter realized that he reacted that way. Of course, we also know how Peter got to know Jesus more in the most painful way when he denied knowing the Lord thrice on the night he was arrested leading to Good Friday.

Remember, the more we get to know Jesus, the more we experience him so real in our lives, the more we follow him, the more the devil confuses us, the more the devil feeds us with so many thoughts or sends us with people like those in this Administration and politicians now campaigning with grand designs, with great intentions for Jesus and for the poor when in fact detract us from the path of the Cross.

Notice how Jesus insisted in his first prediction of his Passion, Death and Resurrection at Caesarea Philippi that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” There is always that qualifier “must” in suffering and pain with Jesus for there is no shortcut nor easy way to get to heaven, to be holy, to be fulfilled in this life which is so unlike the promises of the devil acting in our selfish thoughts or among our politicians and government officials.

Jesus himself had shown us in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection the key to truly knowing him is to have a complete trust in the Father like him as the Servant referred to in the first reading from Isaiah who bore all insults and beatings but never felt disgraced because “the Lord God is my help.”

For so long in our country, many have been duped by politicians who have promised the people of a wonderful life minus sufferings by just electing them into office. All these miseries and misfortunes we are into show us clearly that hardly do we really know who is Jesus Christ as we keep on putting into office people we hardly know as demons in many disguises.

During this pandemic when we have so much time to reflect and pray, let us empty our hearts and minds, exorcise them of many evil thoughts to be penetrated by the divine thoughts found in the scriptures so we may know Jesus clearly, love him dearly, and follow him closely with our lives of faith expressed in works of charity as James exhorts us in the second reading.

It is the clearest sign that we truly know Jesus when our faith in him bears much fruits in works of charity and mercy. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, close-up shot of the Seventh Station of the Cross at St. Ildephonsus Parish, Tanay, Rizal (January 2021). Notice one of the men wearing shades believed to be Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus; we have to remove our shades to truly know Jesus especially when there are trials and sufferings in life. See our article, https://lordmychef.com/2021/02/04/road-trip-in-time-of-covid-19-the-company-we-keep-in-lifes-journey/

The Holy month of August

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 August 2021
Photo by Fr. John Howard Tarrayo, National Shrine and Parish of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 06 August 2021.

Like the months of November and January, August now suffers the same fate of being more known with pagan rituals and beliefs despite its rich liturgical celebrations and feasts we celebrate – ironically – as the only Christian nation in this part of the world.

Spurred mainly by the social media, more and more Filipinos now believe that August is a “ghost month” with almost everybody even not a Chinoy are posting those “Do’s” and “Don’ts” on Facebook to cast away or avoid the evil spell by ghosts that August is supposed to bring.

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

Forty or 30 years ago, all we have was “pangangaluluwa” when some people would sing in front of our homes for some donations like in caroling during Christmas season. With the advent of social media and our penchant for anything American, we now have every November those grossly erroneous and pagan Halloween practices of costume party and “trick or treat”. Not far from that is our January tradition borrowed also from pagans of literally welcoming every New Year with a lot of “bang”, wasting precious money that also cost some lives and injuries to so many due to fireworks and firecrackers.

Here we find the kind of religiosity that binds most of us, more on rites and rituals but lacking in roots and spirituality, centered on ourselves to be assured of every kind of blessings, forgetting all about the very object of faith who is God expressed in our concern for one another.


August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year.  
Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one.  
No day nor date nor time is malas because 
when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, 
life has become holy, filled with God, 
debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year. Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one. No day nor date nor time is malas because when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, life has become holy, filled with God, debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ[2]. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3].

#5 of Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 30 November 2007
From catholicapostolatecenter.org.

Consider the name of this month August which was borrowed from the Roman Caesar Augustus that signifies reverence or to hold someone in high regard. As an adjective, august means “respected and impressive” like when we say “in this august hall of men and women of science”.

Most of all, consider the great feasts that fall on this month of August: the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 6 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15. Both feasts remind us of the promise of glory in heaven as we strive and persevere to lead holy lives in this world filled with pain and sufferings.

(See our blogs on these feasts, https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/06/transfiguration-in-time-of-corona/ and https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/.)

There are also so many saints we celebrate on this month of August like our patron saint as priests, St. John Vianney (August 4); St. Dominic who died 800 years ago on August 8 after serving not only the Church but also the whole world in general when he founded the Order of Preachers (O.P.) also known as the “Dominicans”; St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), a contemporary and friend of St. Francis; St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20) who wrote so many beautiful homilies, hymns and prayers like the Memorare; St. Rose of Lima (August 23) who was the first saint from the New World; and of course not to forget the greatest mother and son tandem next maybe to Mary and Jesus, St. Monica (August 27) and St. Augustine (August 28).

August is also the month of two great followers of Jesus, St. Bartholomew the Apostle (August 24) and two former Pharisees who buried our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus (August 31). Likewise, it is on August 29 when we celebrate the martyrdom of the Lord’s precursor, St. John the Baptist who was beheaded during the birthday party of Herod who was so afraid to take back his oath to give whatever Salome would ask him after delighting his guests with a dance number.

There are two special saints we celebrate this holy month that according to St. John Paul II are both saints of our modern time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (August 09) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14). Both saints were martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

St. Teresa Benedicta is the same German philosopher Edith Stein, a former Jew who had become an atheist in her younger years in the university but upon further studies and prayer, converted into Catholicism, becoming a Carmelite nun where she adopted her new name. She wrote in one of her writings that “Those who seek truth seek God, whether they realize it or not“.

Though she had become Catholic, she did not abandon her Judaic roots, even writing the Pope at that time to ask him to speak strongly against the Nazi Germans’ extermination of Jews. Her death on August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz with her younger sister who had become a Catholic too was a fitting testimony to her faith, honoring her Jewish roots by dying among them as a martyr of Christ and one who had “learned to live in God’s hands” according to Sr. Josephine Koeppel, OCD, a translator of much of her works.

Dying ahead of her in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 was St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was arrested for his writings against the evil Nazis. It was actually his second time to be arrested.

When a prisoner had escaped from the camp, authorities rounded up ten men to die in exchange of the lone escapee. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a married man with children. They were all tortured and starved in order to die slowly in pain. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid on the eve of the Assumption after guards found him along with three other prisoners still alive, without any signs of fear like screaming but silently praying.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

We no longer have gas chambers but atrocities against human life continue in our time, hiding in the pretext of science and laws. Until now, men and women, young and old alike including those not yet born in their mother’s womb are hunted and killed to correct what many perceived as excesses and wrongs in the society. Just like what Hitler and his men have thought of the Jews at that time.

The Nazi officers and soldiers of Auschwitz remind us the true “ghosts” or evil spirits of our time sowing hatred and deaths are people who may be well-dressed, even educated in the best schools, and come from devout or “normal” families. They sow evil every day without choosing any particular month, blindly following orders without much thinking and reflections or introspection.

By the lives of the many great saints of August, or of any other month for that matter, we are reminded especially in this time of the pandemic that holiness is not being sinless but simply being filled with God, allowing that holiness to spill over and flow onto others with our lives of authenticity to the truth of God among us in Christ expressed in charity and mercy, kindness and justice, humility and openness with one another.

It is very sad and depressing to watch in the news and social media feeds how some among us continue to display their lack of any concern at all with the suffering people with their lavish lifestyles and display of expensive clothes and food. And worst of all are those men and women, in power or hungry for power, in their excessive display of brute force against the weak and the poor.

Let us make every month holy and blessed with our good deeds to make everyone aware of Christ’s presence among us.

Photo from inquirer.net.

Agere contra (acting against)

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

Surprising Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Cycle B, 04 July 2021
Ezekiel 2:2-5 ><}}}'> 2Corinthians 12:7-10 ><}}}'> Mark6:1-6
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2015.

There are only two instances in the gospels that say Jesus was surprised or amazed: first is in his hometown of Nazareth as we have heard today when “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk.6:6) and the second is in Capernaum when a Roman centurion asked him to heal his sick servant. When Jesus obliged to come with him to heal the servant, the Roman officer declared, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed. When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt.8:8, 10).

What surprises Jesus most is our faith in him. Or, its lack like the people of Nazareth.

Last Sunday, he dared us to examine our faith in him when he brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus. On their way, Jairus was told his daughter had died, that there was no need to bother Jesus anymore; that’s when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36). Reaching his home, there was commotion on the dead child but later, everybody was “utterly astounded”(Mk.5:42) after Jesus brought her back to life.

Today, St. Mark deepens our reflection on the need to have faith in Jesus by telling us a surprisingly sad episode in the Lord’s life and ministry of being rejected right in his native Nazareth:

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. so he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:2-3, 5-6
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

The need for faith

For the past three weeks, St. Mark has slowly introduced to us that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah or Savior through his teachings and miracles like healing the sick, pacifying a violent storm at sea in the darkness of the night, and bringing back to life the dead child of Jairus.

However, it is not enough to “know” who Jesus is.

Knowing Jesus – or anyone – will not matter at all unless we believe in him and enter into a relationship with him lest we end up like his folks who “knew” him as the carpenter and son of Mary, wondering where he got all his wisdom and power.

And worst, “they took offense at him”. As we would say in Filipino, “pinersonal nila si Jesus.”

But, that is what faith is – something very personal because it is a relationship. No relationship can mature and grow unless there is faith. The deeper and stronger the faith, the most wonderful is the relationship because despite all the troubles and sufferings that may come, the ties remain because of faith.

That is why it St. Mark is telling us today the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, of how even the Son of God experienced failures and rejections, calling us for a deeper and firmer faith in him who alone is our Lord and Savior. Aside from sickness and deaths in our lives, there are many other pains and heartaches, disappointments and failures and losses in our lives that if we do not have faith, we can never make it through with Jesus.

Yes, Jesus is with us in this journey of life in the many seas to cross while in darkness amid violent storms; but, we have to believe in him first before he can make his moves in our favor like in Nazareth where he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” due to their lack of faith in him.

Photo by author, altar in my room at the Fatima National Shrine, Valenzuela City, February 2021.

Surprising Jesus with our faith

Too often in our lives, we have boxed God as being stiff and stern, a disciplinarian watching us for our sins and mistakes. Wrong! God sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we may experience his tender mercy and love, his personal relationship with each of us.

Unlike most of us, Jesus is a touch person, so sensitively human, not numb, always feeling us in our gestures and looks and words like that Roman centurion at Capernaum, that sick woman in the crowd last Sunday, the widow of Nain and the sisters Mary and Martha. They all moved and touched Jesus with their grief and sufferings, and most especially with their faith and joy and confidence in him.

Most beautiful in these stories of Jesus being surprised and moved by humans are the more surprising kindness and blessings he bestowed on them – like in our own experiences! Notice that when we were so surprised by God with his blessings, that is when we have also surprised him with our faith.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we continue to listen and speak his words of justice and truth. In this age of faith in a mass mediated-culture, we find the voice of God drowned in the cacophony of many sounds competing for everyone’s attention where the ones that prevail are those appealing to the senses that are both easy and pleasurable. Through media manipulations, what was unacceptable was first made to be tolerable until it has become acceptable like promiscuity and “safe-sex”, divorce and same sex marriage, birth controls and abortions. Any discussion of God and religion, ethics and morality and values are dismissed as limiting and narrow-mindedness or worst, as being old-fashioned and conservative. In modern man’s effort to be “fair” and “all-encompassing”, the human person has been reduced to technicalities and legalese, replacing life with lifestyles.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Ezekiel 2:4-5

Jesus shows us today in his unhappy homecoming to Nazareth that even if people refuse to listen, we continue with our prophetic role of proclaiming his good news of salvation “in season, out of season”.

Even if nobody listens, even if we do not win converts or followers, we are prophets of God like Ezekiel, the voice of God, of his justice and truth amid a rebellious and wayward generation. Like John the Baptist, we are the voice in the wilderness preparing the coming of the Lord by speaking the truth, calling people to repentance and conversion.

Though God speaks in silence, our being silent in the midst of evil worsens the sinful situation as we shut doors among humanity leaving no room at all for Jesus to come and work his wonders among us. Be the voice of Jesus, be his opening, and be ready for great surprises happening soon!


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we remain standing with him at his Cross, bearing all pains and wounds with him. In this age of affluence and convenience characterized with everything instant in a click of a button, modern life has become sedentary to our own detriment. As we prefer to be seated more than standing, we have become so passive, avoiding every form of pain and suffering that make pain relievers as the most prescribed and widely used medication these days.

See how we quarrel over our places of “seat” everywhere – at home and school, office and community and parish, public and private transport – as they connote powers without realizing that what matters most in life is where we stand because that is when we are defined as a person for our faith and values in life, when we most surprise Jesus as he surprises us most with his strength like what St. Paul had realized:

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Great things begin to happen in us, in our lives when we are out standing for Jesus, with Jesus because that is when we are truly one in him as he passed over our miseries and sins to rise again with him and in him in his Resurrection.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we are filled with joy and love in him despite everything. To love and be joyful like Jesus calls for a deep faith in him, to be kind and merciful even when others are rude and unforgiving. Notice how these days it takes a lot of guts to be good. And we are so amazed with them!

On the other hand, notice when we hear news of a band of people who are inconsiderate, corrupt, unkind, selfish, and proud: are you not surprised they are filled with anger and hate and negativities?

During the persecution of the early Church, Christians were easily spotted and rounded because they were amazingly loving and caring with the marginalized like the poor, the sick, the widows, the old, and the orphans. Pagans were most surprised that the more they persecuted the Christians, the more they grew in number! It is one of history’s most surprising facts but, that is how God moves, so unusual in the most surprising ways.


Have you been surprised by Jesus lately?

Try surprising him with your great faith in him and you will be surprised greatly by him!

Have a blessed Sunday! Amen.

Photo by author, flowers at the Pater Noster Church outside Jerusalem in Israel, 2019.

“Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan (1984)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 27 June 2021
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, M.D. at Athens, Greece 2016.

Chaka Khan’s Through the Fire is one of the songs that have intrigued me for some time not because I love it. In fact, it is one of my least liked song of all time. I have never liked it – until now – though I have always admired Ms. Khan as a musician, especially as a percussionist (I Feel for You is my favorite).

My interest for this song began about 12 years ago when I asked help from a millennial to make me a playlist in my new laptop wherein she included more than one – maybe three copies of Through the Fire.

I felt the young lady was making fun of me but I never had the chance to ask her why she was so fond of the song.

Years later as I interacted with young people in schools and parishes, I found that so many of them who belonged to a different generation in fact love this song very much! It was only this week when I finally found the answer: it is a most unique romantic song about a true love being found by a woman who was so willing to put it to test, hence, through the fire.

Love is like faith that has to be tested, that must be passed “through the fire” to make it more firm and deeply rooted in Christ. And like love, faith dares us to let go of everything for it to truly grow and mature.

Through the fire
To the limit, to the wall
For a chance to be with you
I'd gladly risk it all
Through the fire
Through whatever, come what may
For a chance at loving you
I'd take it all the way
Right down to the wire
Even through the fire

Composed by David Foster in 1984, he claimed in an interview that Through the Fire is the only song he had written with just one particular singer in his mind, Ms. Chaka Khan. And it proved to be so good as it earned numerous awards aside from staying on top of the charts for several weeks.

The melody is very comely, so perfect with Ms. Khan’s sweet voice that is unusually formal and laid-back in this particular piece.

In our gospel today where Jesus brought back to life the dead daughter of the synagogue official name Jairus, we are challenged to examine our faith in God especially in these trying times of sickness and death due to the pandemic (https://lordmychef.com/2021/06/26/arise-be-whole-again-in-christ/).

How far are we willing to go, to risk all through the fire in following Jesus in the midst of the many trials and sufferings COVID-19 had brought to us not only with our health and well-being but also with our means of livelihood.

May we keep and deepen our faith in Christ as we go through the fire for it is only in him can we arise and be whole again in the face of many sickness and deaths of this time.

Have a blessed week ahead!

*We have no intentions of infringing the copyrights of this beautiful music except to share its pure joy and listening pleasures.

From YouTube.