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.

When nothing is lost and when all is lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time, 28 May 2021
Sirach 44:1,9-13     ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*>     Mark 11:11-25
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.
Now I will praise those godly men,
our ancestors, each in his own time.
And for all time their progeny will endure,
their glory will never be blotted out.
(Sirach 44:1,13)

So many times, O Lord, I have heard the same words by your sage Ben Sirach, of how so many people who have gone ahead of us are hardly known nor remembered at all not because they are irrelevant or have not left no impact to anyone and this world.

There have been so many people ahead of us and still more living among us that surely much more would still come in the future after we are gone.

But life and living is not about being remembered for whatever reason.

Life and living is always about being good and holy, of being fully alive, living in you, O God our Father through Jesus Christ your Son.

That is why Ben Sirach praised both the known and unknown men who have gone ahead of him, especially the unknown ones because though there is “no memory of them for they have ceased” (v.9) they continue to exist, they are still relevant and in a sense “remembered” by their progeny because of their goodness and holiness.

How wonderful it is to dwell on this ending words of Ben Sirach in his book that remind us that nothing is lost, everything is gained and kept when we live in goodness and kindness.

Help us, O God, to make good of all your gifts to us lest we become like that fig tree Jesus cursed at Bethany along with the priests and merchants he had scolded when they turned your temple in Jerusalem into a marketplace.

Early in the morning,
as they were walking along, 
they saw the fig tree withered to its roots.
Peter remembered and said to him,
"Rabbi, look!  The fig tree that you cursed
has withered."
(Mark 11:20-21)
Photo by author, 2019.

So many times in life, we keep on trying to make and achieve so many things for the wrong reason of being relevant, of being remembered without realizing that simply being good ensures us of never being lost and forgotten.

It is in our personal pursuits of fame, of immortality when – sadly – all is lost.

We pray today, Lord Jesus Christ, for those who are always worried of so many things that past and non-essential, of how they look like, of how they will be remembered.

Give us that true faith in you to always experience your presence especially in cultivating a prayer life that leads to real trust and communion in you. It is in prayer when we become fruitful for that is when we become sensitive of your loving presence, of our living realities enabling us to forgive and reconcile with those who hurt us.

It is this kind of faith that produces fruit that endures and lasts forever, even if we remain unknown as Ben Sirach extolled in his teachings and prayer. Amen.

The need to be one in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 30 April 2021 (St. Pius V, memorial)
Acts 13:26-33   ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>   John 14:1-6
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, 09 February 2020.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"Do not let your hearts be troubled.
You have faith in God; have faith also in me."
(John 14:1)

O dearest Lord Jesus Christ, how can we not let our hearts be troubled these days?

How can we not be troubled and worried with this prolonged pandemic and resulting quarantine made worst with our government’s inefficiency and incompetence, thriving in lies and malice against everybody who is not on their side and political color?

How can we not be troubled, Lord, when more and more people are sinking into depression, languishing, losing hope and meaning in this life?

Like your apostles at that time, we are trembling in fear as to what will happen to us, to our jobs, to the schooling of children, to our sick family members, to our very selves as well as to our country and its future.

We know that now is the time to be ever closer to you, Lord Jesus – to be one with you, to be one in you but, like Thomas, we do not know the way.

Help us in our unbelief and increase our faith, Lord!

Most of all, let us imitate Thomas your Apostle who dared ask you the simplest question we are afraid to ask because we also fear your answer might demand courage from us to totally identify ourselves to your values and attitudes being the Way, the Truth and the Life yourself.

Our hearts will always be troubled unless we have that deep relationship in you and with you, Jesus.

Like Paul in the first reading, give us that sense of firmness and certitude in your very person so that we may firmly and joyfully proclaim your Good News of salvation in these most troubling times of pandemic and divisions among us your people. Amen.

Easter is “taking your place”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Second Week of Easter, 14 April 2021
Acts 5:17-26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   John 3:16-21
Photo by Mr. Red Santiago, 2019.
But during the night, 
the angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, 
led the Apostles out and said, 
"Go and take your place in the temple area, 
and tell the people everything about this life."  
When they heard this, they went to the temple area 
early in the morning and taught.  
(Acts 5:19-21)

Your words today, O Lord Jesus are so encouraging: “Go and take your place in the temple area, and tell the people everything about this life.”

Oh yes, dearest Jesus, give us the courage and zest to go and take our place where you have designated us to proclaim your good news about this life especially in this time of the pandemic.

Take away our fears and doubts, our complacencies and laziness in stopping and putting on hold our mission from you, your plans for us because of this pandemic. Let us focus on you, Jesus, and forget all about fame and rewards nor faintest recognition in “taking our place” to do your work.

During your mortal life here on earth, Lord, you could not proclaim the kingdom of God beyond the Holy Land. Now you have risen from the dead and seated at the right hand of the Father, those bonds and barriers have been broken through your apostles down to us your modern disciples. Keep us faithful in telling the people everything about this life which is so beautiful, so precious, so worth saving!

Like you who have faithfully took your place to tell us everything about this life, may we share you to everyone we lovingly serve.

God so loved the world 
that he gave his only-begotten Son, 
so that everyone who believes in him 
might not perish but might have eternal life.  
(John 3:16)
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2016.

Dearest Lord, please bless and keep safe those who continue to take their place the Father has reserved for them like you our Savior. We pray for their well-being and safety, for their fulfillment in you our Lord and God.

Bless first of all our medical frontliners, everybody working in the hospitals who continue to take their place and tell people everything about this life despite the great dangers and risks of getting sick.

Bless all Dads and Moms, couples and their children who remain faithful to you, avoiding sins, seeking you in prayers daily amid the great difficulties of balancing economics and well-being.

Bless all teachers and students in this difficult period of on-line classes as well as those in their limited face-to-face classes that all their efforts will someday bear fruit in their professional lives and earn them eternal rewards too.

Bless your priests, Lord Jesus, especially those faithfully serving your flock, celebrating the Holy Mass even without your people, giving the sacraments and praying for those lost and weak souls due to this pandemic. Wake up your tepid priests, awaken the moral fiber of your unfaithful priests.

Bless those in news and social communications that despite the dangers of this pandemic they continue to search and report the truth. Encourage those being harassed and threatened like your Apostles before in telling the truth, in exposing and unmasking evils in government and the society.

Bless everyone of us, Lord Jesus Christ, that we may be faithful to your call, that we may always have the courage to take our place amid this pandemic and continue to lovingly serve one another, especially the weak and the poor. Amen.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, March 2021.

Holiness is faithfulness

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 30 March 2021 
Isaiah 49:1-6   ><}}}*>   John 13:21-33, 36-38
Photo by author, December 2020
Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the Lord, 
my recompense is with my God.
(Isaiah 49:4)

So many times, dear Father in heaven, I feel like your “Suffering Servant” feeling that nothing is happening with all my efforts, with things I persevere, as if they are all useless until I realize what matters most is my being faithful to you.

Thank you for the sign of the Cross of Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord and Master: when things become so difficult and frustrating for me, I just look at him there on the cross, “dead” like me who had failed in your mission.

But as I contemplate his Cross, I remember how before all my sadness and sufferings, Jesus was there first for me to be good with others, to be kind, to be understanding, to be merciful and forgiving, to be patient, and most of all, first to be holy in being faithful to you and your call, Father.

Remind me the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta that we are called to be faithful, not successful.

Let me focus more on you, Lord, instead of wondering how I have been doing, how good I have been.

Let me stop competing with others, asking who is not faithful to you, who is going to betray you like Peter during the last supper when he told the beloved disciple to clarify it with Jesus:

He leaned back against Jesus' chest
and said to him, 
"Master, who is it?"
(John 13:25)

How lovely is the context of that question when what we must contemplate with is whether we have been faithful to Jesus in his Holy Eucharist.

How sad, O dear Father, that we are most unfaithful to you when we betray you right in the Eucharist – when do not listen to your words and message to us, when we do not live and practice the essence of thanksgiving to you by being faithful in witnessing Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in our daily lives. Amen.

A new world begins in a new me

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Fourth Week in Lent, 15 March 2021
Isaiah 65:17-21   ><}}}*>  +  <*{{{><   John 4:43-54
Photo by author at Jaffa, Israel, May 2017.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father for this blessed Monday as we go halfway through March, a year after the start of the longest lockdown due to COVID-19 pandemic.

Once again, we face the threats of a surge of infections after we have been unmindful that the corona virus is still among us as it comes close to our homes, infecting our family and friends with some of them now in serious condition.

We have forgotten, O Lord, that a new and better world always begins in us, when everyone changes one’s attitudes and ways of living as we continue to hold on to your promise of creating “new heavens and a new earth” (Is. 65:17).

That promise has started to be fulfilled in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ but unfortunately, until now many of us still refuse to believe in him, to live in him as we still seek signs from him like the people of his time.

Give us that same firm faith of the royal official from Capernaum who had come to Jesus in Cana, Galilee “and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death” (Jn.4:47).

Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. while the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” The father realized that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe.

John 4:50-53

So many times in life, O Lord, our faith do not match our lives. We say we believe in you only with our lips, or simply as an expression out of habit and routine. We never dare to truly believe by living out our faith, testing our faith like that royal official who was not only relieved and overjoyed when Jesus told him to go home because his son will live; he still enquired his servants who have met him along the way when exactly his son recovered from fever to confirm the faith he had placed in the words of Jesus.

Like that royal official, give us the courage to dare examine our selves, to look into the many darkness within us like fears, guilt, and anxieties mostly caused by our past sins.

Let Jesus our light dispel the many darkness within us, dear Father, so we may vibrantly live our faith in you so that your promised new heavens and a new earth begin right within us. Amen.

Advent is being consistent

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B, 20 December 2020
2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16  >><)))*>  Romans 16:25-27  >><)))*>  Luke 1:26-38
Photo by author, Christmas 2019.

We are now on the final week of our four Sundays of preparations for Christmas. We have been saying Christmas 2020 is surely the most different and difficult in our lives due to the pandemic. However, it may also be the most meaningful when we have more of spiritual values, less of material things; more of the other persons, less of ourselves; and, more of Jesus, less of the Christmas trimmings.

Today we heard the beautiful story of the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ found only in the gospel of Luke, the source of many inspirations in arts for many centuries even today. The scene reveals to us the artistry and spirituality of Luke believed to be a medical doctor who was a disciple of St. Paul. He is the only evangelist who admitted he had “investigated everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence (the events about Jesus Christ) so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received” (Lk.1:3-4).

And what is that certainty Luke looked into? That Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises to the patriarchs and prophets, who is the very presence of God among us. That is why Luke wrote a second volume to his gospel, the Acts of the Apostles to show us Jesus still present in the Church in the power of the Holy Spirit. In this beautiful canvass painted to us by Luke on Jesus the Christ in his Gospel and Acts we also find in a supporting role the Blessed Virgin Mary, His own Mother and model disciple.

The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. then the angel said to her, “do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end”

Luke 1:26-33

The discipleship of Mary

As a former journalist, I have always considered the four evangelists as the premiere reporters of Jesus Christ. Mark is the old school type of straight news reporting, writing the basic who, what, where, when and why, making his gospel the first to be written and shortest as he was in a hurry, a true journalist. Matthew is more of a feature writer or interpretative reporter while John was a news analyst, an op-ed columnist.

Luke is the modern journalist using the “digital platform” who goes on “live as it happens” with all the colors and actions without losing depth and focus like the BBC and Al Jazeera. He brings us where the news is happening as you must have noticed yesterday in the story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah which also served as introduction to his lead story of Christmas, the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Here we see the unique position of Mary as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Unlike Mark and Matthew, Luke tells us how Mary is the only one to have believed in a “situation of contemporaneity” as Fr. Cantalamessa would love to say, meaning, she believed while the event was taking place and prior to any confirmation by the event or history.

See how Matthew presented some facts already known to him in narrating the annunciation to Joseph where the angel clarified Mary’s pregnancy was due to the Holy Spirit. Luke, on the other hand, is like reporting live in real time, so realistic with Mary and the angel conversing to each other!

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, mosaic of the Annunciation at the San Padre Pio Church in San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, 2016.

Writing in Greek like the rest of the authors in the New Testament, Luke did not use the usual Hebrew greeting of “Shalom” when Gabriel appeared to Mary, addressing her instead with chaire or “Rejoice favored one” that means especially graced from which came our translation from the Latin “Hail, full of grace!” in 1:28.

The favor or grace of Mary has found with God in 1:30 is explained in 1:31 in the future tense, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son“. What is amazing here is that there is the sense of certitude on the part of the angel that the future will definitely take place because Mary has already been highly favored one by God before this event. How?

Though Mary will finally become a disciple at the end by saying “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” in 1:38, we find in 1:29 how she had always been disposed to the will and grace of God when Luke described how “she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be“.

Mary “pondered – meaning, she prayed, she meditated right away the greetings to her, indicating her openness and disposition to listen and follow the will of God. That shows how even before the annunciation happened, Mary had always been obedient to God that is why she could say yes to Him when asked to be the Mother of the Savior.

Here we find Mary’s consistency as a disciple of the Lord, her Son Jesus still to be born but already existing in eternity!

When we were growing up, our mother would always tell us that once our names are called either by her or by our father, we only say one thing, “Opo… ano po iyon?” (Yes, what is it?). That is old school discipline where we literally obeyed first even without any instruction yet because we have always been assured parents would never tell kids to do something bad or wrong. And we believed that. Unlike today’s generations where the usual reply to parents’ call is “wait” that no wonder, we now ask God wait before he can speak to us. Thank God I did not get married….

Going back to Mary, we now find the contrast with yesterday’s annunciation to Zechariah: Mary pondered and felt everything in her heart and soul while Zechariah reasoned out, used more his head than his heart – something we must ponder this Christmas. Mary right away had her heart, her very self onto the Christmas Nativity while Zechariah was stuck in his negativity.

Mary believed while the event, the annunciation, was taking place, prior to any confir­mation by the event itself or by history. Later we shall see that expression “pondering in her heart” repeated often by Luke and also by John in presenting Mary: after listening to the words of the shepherds who came to see baby Jesus at His birth in Bethlehem, at finding Jesus at the temple aged 12, and during the wedding feast at Cana where He did His first miracle.

Photo by author of the site where the annunciation to Mary took place found below the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth (2019).

The faith of Mary

From the annunciation of the birth of Jesus to His crucifixion, Easter and Pentecost, Mary always believed. During the Visitation, Elizabeth praised her, becoming the first to call Mary as “blessed” because “you believed what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45).

Eight days after Easter, Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe! ” (Jn 20:29). Early at the annunciation, Mary was the first to have believed without having seen Jesus Christ!

Mary teaches us the importance of subjective faith or the act of simply believing and trusting God, a person-to-person relationship with Him.

But it is not enough because it could lead to isolationism when we become individualistic and begin to have our own concept of God like what is happening these days especially with many Catholics with their own interpretations of God, heaven, evil and sin among other things.

Like Mary, we need to cultivate also objective faith, believe in the content of faith of the community. Mary believed God relating with the ancient prophets and patriarchs of Israel which the angel mentioned to her during the annunciation. See that after the annunciation, Mary hastily went to visit Elizabeth to share her good news and her faith. In her we learn that faith leads to a mission that is seen in the context of a community, the Church where Mary was portrayed to us praying with the disciples of Jesus during the Pentecost at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

So here we find the consistency of Mary even before the annunciation that continued on in the life of the Church we still experience today in her many apparitions and messages always centered on Jesus not herself.

That is the call of Advent to us all: to be consistently clear with our faith with the one to be born at Christmas, Jesus Christ who is the Son of the Father, our Savior promised in Old Testament, now the very presence of God among us.

People kneeling on the streets during our Christ the King celebrations, 22 November 2020.

It is not enough that we just pray and believe; like Mary, we need to get out of ourselves and give ourselves to God and the Church. This is especially true with us priests who seem to believe more to himself and to media than with God! We must constantly examine ourselves if we truly believe in what we preach, in the kind of lives we lead. Is Jesus still center of our lives or us that we are so concerned always with our “image”, always seeking “likes” and “followers” than anything else?

If there is anyone who should be the first to be consistent in faith in God in any community, that must be the priest or pastor.

A few weeks ago while striving through the many challenges of my personal life and my ministry since this pandemic began, a parishioner told me how they draw strength and inspiration from me. I asked her why and how? What does my personal life has anything to do with them?

She explained that whenever they see me still going through with my ministry, holding on in my prayers and daily Masses, still smiling and can still laugh and crack jokes — they just feel they too can overcome their trials and difficulties.

I have realized in that short conversation more than preaching and explaining faith and its content, people look more at how faithful are we truly are as men of faith. That aside from dispensing the sacraments and doing all the ministries in my parish, there is also the task so unknown to me before of enkindling the faith of my flock, of guiding and leading them to God based on how do I live that faith in God with joy and patience.

People believe in God and the Church when they experience their pastor believing first in God and the Church. Like the COVID-19 virus, faith is contagious that spreads by coming into contact with. We priests must be the first to be “infected” with faith in the parish so that everyone would be “positive” with it, creating a “pandemic” in faith!

That is the consistency of Mary as a disciple — she is a “carrier” of a deep, joyful and active faith in Jesus, “infecting” everyone so positively that despite the difficult and trying situations we are into, we celebrate Christ’s coming amid the pandemic.

A blessed Sunday as we prepare for Christmas!

Learning from Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr, 23 November 2020
Revelation 14:1-3, 4-5     >><)))*>  >><)))*>  >><)))*>     Luke 21:1-4
Photo by Red Santiago, his youngest son at prayer in our Parish, 21 November 2019.

Two things have struck me today, Lord, in your words: first is how St. John could say “No one could learn this hymn except the hundred and forty-four thousand who had been ransomed from the earth” (Rev. 14:3) when he heard them singing before you in his vision of heaven; and second, how did you know that the “poor widow put in more than all the rest” (Lk.21:3) into the treasury?

Of course, you are the Son of God, Jesus, who knows everything and can read everything in our hearts but, aside from that fact, one thing that truly best describes you is how you can give up anything even your very self for us, completely trusting the Father like a child.

In the gospel, you must have seen how the poor widow thought more of God, more of the temple, more of those in need than her self that she gave two small coins’ offerings worth a fortune for her. She was willing to let go of everything she has for God because she trusted him so much!

May we keep in our minds and in our hearts that it is when we are able to give up what is most precious in us that we truly love because that is also when we truly have faith in you that whatever we lovingly surrender is never lost but gained in eternal life like the 144,000 souls singing the new hymn for the Lamb in heaven seen by your beloved disciple.

As we close the current liturgical year this week, teach us, Lord Jesus, to learn more of these things from you so we can prepare ourselves for your daily coming especially this coming Season of Advent leading to Christmas.

Like St. Clement, may we entrust everything to God’s providence and care our whole lives. Amen.