Practical blessedness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Fifth Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 05 February 2023
Isaiah 58:7-10 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ><}}}}*> Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 2022.

We are still at the sermon on the mount by Jesus Christ that opened last Sunday with his teachings on the beatitudes. We have reflected that the beatitudes are actually Jesus Christ himself that are supposed to be the very disposition of his disciples by being like him who is “poor in spirit”, “meek”, “afflicted”, “hungry and thirsty for righteousness”, “merciful”, “clean of heart”, “peacemaker”, and “persecuted”.

Every disciple is already blessed in Christ because blessedness is primarily a being like status in Facebook, not a mere doing. What a dignity we all have in Jesus in being called blessed! That is why this Sunday Jesus is teaching us the practical side of our blessedness, of being “the salt of the earth” and “light of the world” that call on the characteristics and demands of being like Christ, of conforming to his gospel of salvation.

See that being a salt and a light perfectly match the beatitudes when we say, “Blessed are you who are the salt of the earth and the light of the world”! For this Sunday, let us focus on the call of being the light of the world.


After praying over today’s gospel, I saw on a friend’s FB this post from Meralco inviting anyone interested in becoming a lineman. The tag-line was very catchy, “Handa na ba kayo maghatid ng liwanag?” (Are you ready to bring light?) with a hashtag, #BuildingABrilliantFuture.

From Meralco/fb

I felt the Meralco advertisement so brilliant, extolling the great honor of being a lineman who brings light to homes and schools, offices and factories, and everywhere. Requirements are actually minimal except for that most important thing of not having fear of heights. Of course!

But, Jesus Christ’s call to us all is more pressing, more important. More than the linemen building the facilities that will bring light to towns and cities, Jesus invites us to be the light ourselves.

Jesus alone is the light of the world. The light we carry is his. We are all Christ-light who reflect the very light of Jesus Christ in our good works and loving service to others, in our witnessing to our faith.

Words are not enough to bring his light to the world. The light of Christ shines brightly in us when we are witnessing truth and justice, kindness and mercy among our brothers and sisters, when we bear all pains and sufferings in continually working for peace and uplifting of the lowly despite so many accusations by those in power. Here we find that being the light of the world is to put into practice the beatitudes of having a clean heart, of being peacemakers, and being persecuted. It is when we work on them that our light shine before others that upon seeing our good deeds, it is God whom they glorify and not us:

Jesus said to his disciples: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Matthew 5;16

See the following verses when Jesus described in details his teachings of being good, of witnessing his gospel values, he also warned us his disciples to never do good deeds for the sake of being known and popular. It is very clear that in being the light of the world, it is God who must be seen in us not our selves. Living the beatitudes is not having the most “likes” and “reactions” in Facebook nor of being viral nor trending. Moreover, it is definitely not being an “influencer” whatever that word means.

At the same time, Jesus Christ’s call for us to be his light ourselves is also a call for us to work as a community, not just as individuals. It is perfectly good if every disciple will shine brightly as a light of Christ but it is better when all disciples as a community of believers shine in gospel values!

You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house.

Matthew 5:14-15
Photo by author, La Mesa Dam Eco Park seen from OLFU-Quezon City, 01 February 2023.

How sad that lately, the world has grown darker not only because of fewer men and women sharing the light of Christ with their witnessing of the gospel but because nations and regions have abandoned the faith. Many are getting de-Christianized on a wholesale basis these days.

Nobody seems to care at all anymore of not going to Mass face-to-face while everyone is so glued on their cellphone and computer screens without a whimper of opposition or rejection even disdain with all the trash coming out in social media like TikTok so saturated with sexual content ranging from same sex relationships to display of too much skin and use of indecent language.

Making matters worst are the many priests and religious lacking understanding in communication who do all the stupid things on camera that instead of evangelizing are demoralizing the faithful. And the tragedy is how most of these media practitioners in the Church are simply playing on novelties than creating innovations in employing the modern means of communications that result in just creating cults around themselves and miserably fail in evangelizing the people. This is the message of St. Paul in the second reading, reminding us that faith rests on the power of God than in the personality and eloquence of the priests and bishops.

Christ’s call for us to be the light of the world is a resounding call we must all respond to in this present age through deep prayer to be immersed in the person of Christ, the light of the world. It is only Jesus and always Jesus whom we must share and give to the people by realizing and affirming our prophetic functions in denouncing the ways of the world of injustice against the poor and the hungry like what Isaiah described in the first reading.

The world badly needs prophets these days, men and women like Christ who are “light rising in the darkness who would turn gloom into midday” (Is.58:10) for indeed as the psalmist declares, “The just man is a light in darkness to the upright.” Amen.

Have a blessed and illuminating week ahead in Jesus Christ!

Photo by author, 01 February 2023.

True blessedness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, Year A, 29 January 2023
Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 ><}}}*> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by author, 2020.

Blessedness is a very contentious term for us Filipinos. Very often, we equate blessedness with being rich and wealthy like having a lot of money, a beautiful house, and the latest car model as well as clothes and gadgets. Being blessed sometimes means being lucky or fortunate like winning the lotto or having a child graduating in college or getting promoted in one’s job.

In the Visitation, Elizabeth defined for us the true meaning of being blessed like Mary as someone who believed that what the Lord had promised her would be fulfilled (Lk.1:45). Blessedness is essentially a spiritual reality than a material one; however, it implies that being blessed results from doing something good like being faithful to God.

Today in our gospel from Matthew, Jesus shows us that blessedness is still a spiritual reality than a material one but, it is more of a being – like a status in Facebook – than of doing.

Most of all, being blessed is not being in a good situation or condition when all is well and everything proceeding smoothly in life; blessedness according to Jesus at his sermon on the mount is when we are on the distaff side of life like being poor, being hungry, being persecuted and insulted – being like him!

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2019.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.”

Matthew 5:3-12

After going around the shores of Galilee, preaching and healing the people, Jesus went up a mountain upon seeing crowds were following him. They were mostly poor people with deep faith in God, hoping and trusting only in him for their deliverance called the anawims.

They were in painful and difficult situations, maybe like many of us, fed up with the traffic and rising costs of everything, fed up with the corruption among public officials and most of all, disillusioned with our priests and bishops!

Then, Jesus called them blessed.

Now, please consider that it is more understandable and normal to say that after being persecuted or after losing a loved one, after all these sufferings that people would be blessed, that the kingdom of God would be theirs.

But, that is not the case with the beatitudes whereby Jesus called them already blessed now, right in their state of being poor, being persecuted, being maligned!

Keep in mind that Matthew’s audience were his fellow Jewish converts to Christianity. By situating Jesus on the mountain preaching his first major discourse, Matthew was reminding his fellow Jewish converts of their great lawgiver, Moses who stood on Mount Sinai to give them the Ten Commandments from God.

However, in the sermon on the mount, Matthew was presenting Jesus not just as the new Moses but in fact more than Moses because Jesus himself is the Law. His very person is what we follow that is why we are called Christians and our faith is properly called Christianity so unlike other religions that are like philosophies or any other -ism.

To understand the beatitudes, one has to turn and enter into Jesus Christ for he is the one truly poor in spirit, meek, hungry and thirsty, merciful, clean of heart, who was persecuted, died but rose again and now seated at the righthand of the Father in heaven. Essentially, the Beatitudes personify Jesus Christ himself. Those who share what he had gone through while here on earth, those who identify with him in his poverty and meekness, mercy and peace efforts, and suffering and death now share in his blessedness.

Therefore, the Beatitudes are paths to keeping our relationship with Jesus Christ who calls us to be like him – poor, hungry and thirsty, meek, clean of heart and persecuted. The Beatitudes are not on the moral plane like the Decalogue that tells us what to do and not to do. Have you ever used the Beatitudes as a guide in examining your conscience when going to Confessions? Never, because the Beatitudes are goals in life to be continuously pursued daily by Christ’s disciples.

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2017.

The Beatitudes are more on the spiritual and mystical plane of our lives that when we try imitating Jesus in his being poor and merciful, meek and clean of heart, then we realize and experience blessedness as we learn the distinctions between joy and happiness, being fruitful and successful.

That is when we find fulfillment while still here on earth amid all the sufferings and trials we go through because in the beatitudes we have Jesus, a relationship we begin to keep and nurture who is also the Kingdom of God. Of course, we experience its fullness in the afterlife but nonetheless, we reap its rewards while here in this life.

As we have noted at the start, we must not take the beatitudes in their material aspect but always in the spiritual meaning. This we find in the first beatitude, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Actually, this first beatitude is the very essence of all eight other blessedness. Everything springs forth from being poor in spirit, of having that inner attitude and disposition of humility before God. We cannot be merciful and meek, nor pure of heart nor peacemakers unless we become first of all poor in spirit like Jesus, who, “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness and humbled himself” (Phil. 2:6-7, 8).

The prophet Zephaniah showed us in the first reading that poverty in the Old Testament does not only define a social status but more of one’s availability and openness to God with his gifts and calls to us to experience him and make him known. Experience had taught us so well that material poverty is one of life’s best teacher as it leads us to maturity and redemption best expressed in the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In this sense, the beatitude is also the “be-attitude” of every disciple who carries his cross in following Christ. See that each beatitude does not refer to a different person; every disciple of Jesus goes through each beatitude if he/she immerses himself/herself in Christ. That is why last week Jesus preached repentance which leads to conversion. Notice that the beatitudes of Christ are clearly opposite and contrary to the ways of the world as St. Paul tells us in the second reading with God calling the weak and lowly to manifest his power and glory.

Many times in life, we fail to recognize our blessedness when we are so focused with what we are going through, with our work and duties and obligations. This Sunday, Jesus takes us up on the mountain, in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for us to see ourselves blessed and loved right in the midst of our simplicity and bareness, sufferings and pains. Stop for a while. Find Christ in all your troubles or darkness in life. If you do not find Jesus in your labors and burdens, you are just punishing yourself. If you find Christ because you see more the face of other persons that you become merciful, you work for peace, you mourn and bear all insults and persecution… then, you must be loving a lot. Therefore, you are blessed! Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, Israel, 2017.

Heaven our Promised Land

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2022
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14 ><}}}}*> 1 John 3:1-3 ><}}}}*> Matthew 5:1-12
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father 
in fulfilling your Promised Land
to us all in Jesus Christ
in heaven!

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the land.

Matthew 5:5
Thank you for the gift
of All Saints Day as we remember
and emulate those who have gone
ahead us into heaven,
the real Promised Land you
had promised since the beginning;
more than a piece of land nor a country
nor a continent nor a place in this planet,
your Promised Land dear God is heaven -
a sacred space within us where YOU and I,
Father, commune, live together as one in
Jesus Christ.
Heaven is the paradise Jesus
promised the thief on the Cross;
Heaven is when we live in communion
in Jesus Christ not only after we have died
but while we are still here on earth,
when we are meek and humble 
bearing in you and with you
the pains and sufferings
of lovingly serving others,
of working for peace, 
of hoping in eternity.
Inheriting the land, dear Jesus,
means orienting our goals into
striving to let your reign of peace
be a reality despite all the troubles
we have here on earth; after all,
history has shown us how the violent 
and powerful conquerors have come
and go when it is always the humble
and lowly who remain and last longer
just like the Saints now in heaven.
Enable us dear Jesus 
to alway listen and pray,
most of all abide in your words
like the Saints who have truly
lived out the Scriptures that they
have inherited heaven; like all the
Saints now in heaven, may we put
into practice the words of the Sacred
Scriptures no matter how we may 
sound and look foolish like with the experiences
of St. Paul, St. Francis, and St. John Paul II;
the Saints are the best examples 
of being meek to inherit the land
because in living out the Sacred Scriptures,
they have opened so many possibilities 
of good things in life in the future,
not only in heaven but here on earth
as testified by their many works
and teachings still continuing to this day.
As we slowly return
to normal these days, Jesus,
may we humbly return to you
in our Sunday Masses when
you as Prince of Peace reigns
supreme in your words proclaimed, 
in your offering of your Body and Blood,
when we also create a sacred space 
for you in our hearts so that every Eucharistic
celebration becomes a dress
rehearsal of our entry into heaven.
Amen.

*Photo credits: from en.wikipedia.org painting by Fra Angelico called “The Forerunners of Christ with Saints and Martyrs”.

The world is passing away

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Twenty-third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 07 September 2022
1 Corinthians 7:25-31   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 6:20-26
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, 12 August 2022.
Thank you, 
God our loving Father,
for this brand-new day;
in a few days, the week will
be over again as we move 
closer to another week,
to another month,
and on to another year!
There is no denying that the world
indeed is passing away as St. Paul
reminds us today in the first reading:

I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it. For the world in its present form is passing away.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31
Like what the psalmist
says today, let me listen to you,
dear God, let me see and bend 
my ear to experience and realize
that far more better than this life is
heaven awaiting us where we shall
enjoy your presence eternally!
Let us be on guard against that
great temptation that there is still time,
that we have plenty of time to spare,
not realizing that it is not really time that
passes by but us who are passing by
when we live in lavish wealth and luxury,
when we eat and drink without satiety,
when we laugh unmindful of the miseries 
around us, and when we relish and enjoy
the accolades and praises of others.

Grant us the grace and courage 
to choose you always in Jesus Christ 
who had come to us as poor and hungry, 
weeping and hated by everyone,
insulted and denounced for standing for 
what is true and good.
Lord, let us see in every
beginning the end of our lives
in you. Amen.

Beatitudes of Jesus, attitudes of his disciples

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week VI-C in Ordinary Time, 13 February 2022
Jeremiah 17:5-8 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20 ><}}}}*> Luke 6:17, 20-26
Photo by author, monastery inside the compound of the Church of Beatitudes, the Holy Land, 2019.

From the shores of Lake Gennesaret in Capernaum, Jesus now takes us to the plains for his first series of teachings called “sermon on the plains”. In Matthew’s gospel, it is called “sermon on the mount” due to his different emphasis and audience, his fellow Jews while Luke situated it on the plains based on his own focus directed to gentiles or non-Jews.

But, whether it was on the mount or on the plains, one thing remains clear: Jesus taught important lessons specifically for his disciples called the Beatitudes.

Last Sunday Jesus called his first four disciples to become “fishers of men” and as he travelled preaching along the shores of Galilee, they grew to Twelve in number.

On the night before this scene of sermon on the plains, Jesus went up a hill with the Twelve to pray before appointing them as Apostles. It was the first “face-to-face” class of the Twelve with the Beatitudes labelled as Discipleship 101.

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: Blessed are you who are poor for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Luke 6:20-26
Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, the Holy Land, 2019.

Beatitudes, the meaning of discipleship

The Beatitudes tell us the meaning of discipleship, of not simply following Jesus but making a choice, taking a stand to be like him. Each “blessedness” is actually Christ who is described as the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the hated.

Again we find in the Beatitudes of Jesus the contrasts and contradictions we have reflected three Sundays ago when he was rejected by his own folks at a synagogue in Nazareth (see https://lordmychef.com/2022/01/29/living-loving-amid-contradictions/).

See the set of “Blessed” followed by a corresponding set of “woes”, giving us a hint that the Beatitudes were patterned by Jesus to Jeremiah’s pronouncements to the people we heard in the first reading,

“Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. Blessed is the who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5, 7-8

Both in Jeremiah and in the Beatitudes by Jesus, there is the promise of blessings in the future; however, it is not something we only hope to achieve in the future but something realized in the present IF we trust in the Lord.

Photo by author, pilgrims entering the Church of the Beatitudes, 2019.

More than a promise of hope in a future glory, the Beatitudes by Jesus are directions every disciple must take as path in life, guides or criteria in discerning the will of God for us in this life. It is said that the word beatitude is from “be attitude” or the attitudes of a disciple.

That gesture of the Lord looking up to his disciples that include us today while teaching the Beatitudes indicates his recognition of our present situation by speaking in the present tense with “Blessed are you who are now poor, hungry, weeping and hated”.

Are we not feeling poor and hungry, actually weeping and hated in this intensely heated politics in the country where everyone seems to be lacking reason and shame, everyone going insane and worst, salaula (filthy) without any sense of shame at all?

At the same time, all those pronouncements of having the Kingdom of God, of being satisfied, of laughing, and of being rewarded greatly in heaven are not things we get in the future if we suffer now; these we can NOW have amid our sufferings when we are one in Jesus Christ.

The saints have shown us in their lives most especially St. Paul how while being poor, hungry, weeping and hated they have experienced fulfillment and joy at the same time. We ourselves have proven them right that with St. Paul we can “boast” like him, “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 Cor. 12:10).

The key is union in Jesus Christ because the Beatitudes not only reveal to us his very person but also his Paschal Mystery of Passion, Death and Resurrection. It is therefore an imperative that every disciple must be immersed in Christ because discipleship is the imitation of Christ. Again, we borrow from St. Paul who said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal.2:20).

Photo by author, dome of the Church of Beatitudes, the Holy Land, 2019.

Woes of not following Jesus

Contrary to claims by many philosophers and filosofong tasyo alike who are atheists and anti-Church, God is not a sadomasochist who delights in seeing his people suffer and die. Nothing bad can come from God for God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).

Unbelievers continue to question God, most especially Jesus and his Beatitudes that are clearly about sufferings with its apparent dislike or rejection of wealth and fame like what Jesus spoke of the woes in the second part of his Beatitudes.

There is nothing wrong with being rich, being filled, of laughing and being spoken well by others per se; in fact, these are all good in themselves. However, Jesus spoke of them as woes based on the pattern we have seen from Jeremiah’s pronouncements in the first reading: “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

See how Jesus was more “soft” and gentle in his woes than God in Jeremiah’s instruction to the people that was so harsh, saying “cursed” is the man who trusts in human beings, whose heart turns away from the Lord.

Photo by author, altar in the Church of Beatitudes, 2019.

But here we find its true context too: it is a warning sign, a reminder of the dangers that can happen to anyone who trusts in himself more and turns away from God.

Here we find something truly happening in the future – not now – unlike in the Beatitudes wherein the future blessings are experienced in the present moment if we suffer in communion with Christ.

Very clear in Jeremiah and in the woes of Jesus, turning away from God surely leads to disaster because it is the opposite path of blessings.

At the same time, since God does not punish, the woes by Jesus are not a condemnation of those who are rich, filled, laughing and well spoken of others. His woes are not expressions of hatred nor hostilities but warning against the dangers of being so proud, of being filled with one’s self, of playing god because it is the path to destruction. Or even perdition as we shall see later this year in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man found only in Luke’s gospel.

The Greeks have a more precise term for that called hubris – an excessive pride and defiance of the gods that leads to one’s nemesis. Clearly, God does not punish nor condemn anyone of us. It is always our choice that we are lost and end in woes, as Shakespeare immortalized in the words of Cassius in Julius Caesar,

"The fault, dear Brutus, 
is not in our stars 
But in ourselves, 
that we are underlings".

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone. God bless you all. Amen.

Blessed are those who mourn

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2021
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-24 ><]]]'> 1 John 3:1-3 ><]]]'> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, 05 August 2021.

For the second time since last year, all roads do not lead to the cemeteries this November 1-2 due to the pandemic. While there is still that annual exodus to the provinces, the government has preferred to keep cemeteries closed despite the many casualties of COVID-19 while allowing malls and other establishments to operate, including the opening this week of favorite destinations of Baguio and Tagaytay.

Most unkind of all is how thousands of people were allowed including children to visit for several days Manila Bay’s newest attraction, the dolomite beach while cemeteries remain closed and religious gatherings still limited as this government is more concerned in “resurrecting” the economy than considering as “essential” at this time the people’s religious and spiritual needs.

And so, we mourn for the second straight year this November 1 and 2 not only for our departed loved ones but for the benighted souls of this Administration.

But, have a heart as we find solace and comfort in Jesus Christ who encourages us every year on this first day of November with his teachings on the Beatitudes which we hear proclaimed every Solemnity of All Saints. The Beatitudes reveal the mystery of Jesus Christ who invites us to enter into a communion in him by expressing also the meaning of being his disciples. Jesus is in fact every Beatitude – the one who is truly poor in spirit, the first to be persecuted, the one with a clean heart, and the peacemaker.

For this year, let us reflect on the second beatitude which we find very close to our situation under the COVID-19 pandemic as most of us have lost a family member or friends.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:1-4

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

In a world that thrives and promotes so much fun and merry-making, our second beatitude is difficult to understand or even grasp in this time of the pandemic. What is “blessed” with grieving and mourning when you have lost a loved one so suddenly, without having the chance to even see them before they were cremated?

There are two kinds of mourning that the gospels offer us exemplified by the two most extreme of the Apostles, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and, Simon Peter who denied the Lord thrice (see “Jesus of Nazareth” by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, The Beatitudes, pp.86-89).

The first kind of mourning as shown by Judas Iscariot is when one has lost hope, succumbing to the miseries of losing a beloved and becomes mistrustful of love and of truth that leads to self-destruction. It is the worst kind of mourning that eats away and destroys man within just like Judas Iscariot who hanged himself.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

The second kind of mourning that Jesus must be referring to as “blessed” which leads to salvation is when the mourning is caused by an encounter with the truth that leads to conversion like what happened to Simon Peter who was struck by the gaze of Jesus that he burst into healing tears and cleansed his soul to enable him to begin anew in his life in the Lord.

Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord… He went out and began to weep bitterly.

Luke 22:60-61, 62

This will have its lovely conclusion eight days after Easter before Jesus ascended into heaven when he asked Simon Peter thrice, “Do you love me?” (Jn.21:15ff.) to remind him of that episode that eventually pushed him to follow Christ unreservedly “by taking care of his sheep”.


Blessed are those who weep because first of all, they have love in their hearts. Deaths and bad news that befall our loved ones sadden us, even jolt us with deep pain that move us to console them, to suffer with them, and to be one with them by reconnecting with them and their loved ones like when we go to a funeral or a wake.

This did not happen with Judas Iscariot. The little love he had in his heart when he realized his sin was completely wiped out when he chose to surrender totally to evil, finding no more hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus. When grief becomes so overpowering and consuming, it totally wipes out the embers of love left in our hearts and like Judas, that is when we choose to die miserably sad and separated from God who is love.

Never lose hope in Jesus. Seek that love in your heart. Seek Jesus in that tiny voice telling you to always come home to him. Do not be shy nor ashamed of your loss and failure. Keep that fire of love in Jesus burning.


Blessed are those who weep because more than the love they have in their hearts, they have been loved first of all. We weep and grieve the death of a beloved family member or relative or friend because of the love they have given us, of the kindness they have shown us, and the care they have lavished us.

Simon Peter did not merely have love in his heart. Luke dramatically described to us how Peter’s eyes met the merciful and loving eyes of Jesus while he was denying the Lord. It must have struck him so hard that immediately he felt contrition for his sin, feeling strongly the need to reform himself and reconnect with the Lord. He could not let the imperfect love he has in his heart to just go to waste that is why when he wept bitterly on that Holy Thursday evening, it was not the end but the beginning of another chapter in his beautiful story of love for Jesus. It was precisely what he meant when he told Jesus at Tiberias, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn.21:17) – that despite his weaknesses and failures, he loves Jesus, he tries so hard to love Jesus in his little ways.

When in the midst of great sufferings and pain specially after we have sinned or we have lost a loved one, we are blessed as we mourn and grieve because that is when we realize strongly our weakness and limitations that we reach out to God, to be nearer to him. To desire God in itself is always a grace and a blessing too!


Photo by author, 2018.

Blessed are those who mourn because that is when we actually stand for what is true and good, for what is just and right.

When we weep, it does not mean we have lost; in fact, even in the face of apparent loss like Jesus on the Cross, mourning is the most firm expression of our belief in what is right and just, and what is true and good.

The best scene for this kind of blessed mourning that leads to salvation is found at the death of Jesus Christ where his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the foot of his Cross with her cousin Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple John (Ibid.,p. 87).

By standing at the foot of the Cross and later carrying in her arms the dead body of her Son Jesus Christ called La Pieta, Mary showed us that mourning is blessed because it is the strongest depiction of our solidarity with God, of our going against evil and sin.

In this world when conformity to whatever “everyone is doing” is the rule of the game like corruption, dishonesty, infidelity, lies and manipulation of people, mourning and weeping with the victims of oppression and persecution can be our strongest signs of protest and resistance against the prevailing evils of our time.

When we weep and mourn for victims of violence and evil, that is when we become God’s instruments of his comfort to his people. From the Latin words cum fortis “with strength”, to comfort means to strengthen those persecuted or oppressed or those facing intense sufferings and tests.

When we weep, when we grieve and mourn over a lost beloved or a lost cause, that is when God comforts us, when he makes us stronger in resisting evil and sin.

Ultimately, that is when our mourning leads to salvation, that is why blessed are those who mourn and weep.


What are your griefs today?

What do you mourn?

Blessed are you in your weeping not only in having love in your heart but most of all, for being loved. Dwell in the love of God in Jesus Christ like the saints who have gone ahead of us, resisting all evils and temptations to sin for the Lord comforts us his people always. Amen.

A blessed All Saints’ Day to you!

To be encouraged to encourage

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 07 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:1-7   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by author, Nazareth in Israel, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians are so encouraging, so comforting as they are truly meant for us, too, in this time of trials and difficulties due to the pandemic.

In greeting the Corinthians as well as other Christians in the region who were facing tremendous tests and sufferings, St. Paul prayed fervently for them by introducing the virtue of “encouragement” – mentioning it ten times that we can feel his deep concern not only for the Corinthians but with anyone in any period of time like us going through severe tests like in this time of COVID-19.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,  
who encourages us in our every affliction,  
so that we may be able to encourage those
 who are in any affliction with the encouragement 
with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Encouragement or comfort is what we really need at this time, Lord Jesus, in order to strengthen us “in enduring the sufferings” (2Cor.1:6) we are going through. It can only come from you for it is a grace that enables us to live out true blessedness found in your Beatitudes we heard in the gospel today.

So many among us are getting weak not only physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually in this prolonged quarantine periods when our mobility is so limited.

So many among us have lost their jobs and livelihood, with still many others so limited in their earning abilities while financial obligations are piling up.

So many among us feel so uncertain about the future, finding it so hard to focus on whatever we have at the moment so we can make the most out of every opportunity that comes out from this pandemic.

Worst of all, there are some of us who are in deep emotional traumas at this time when problems arise in their marriage and family life.

O God, you know the situation we are into, even the mess some of us have got involved with due to our own sinfulness and carelessness.

Send us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter and Encourager par excellence for us to be encouraged to persevere and to strive, to remain blessed so that we may encourage others too. Amen.

Christ’s “Win-Win” Solution for Humanity

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The beautiful Church of the Beatitudes in the Holy Land.  Photo by the author, April 2017.

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
23 February 2019, Week VII, Year C
1Samuel 26:2, 7-9, 12-13, 22-23///1Corinthians 15:45-49///Luke 6:27-38
Life, sometimes, is a series of “good news-bad news” situation like the Beatitudes preached by Jesus during His sermon on the plain last week:  the blessings are the good news while the woes are the bad news.
 
But, wait…!  Such a view is the way of the world, not of Christ’s disciples!  
 
As we have reflected last Sunday, the Beatitudes are the paradoxical happiness of the disciples of Christ because they all run directly against the ways of the world.  Today we hear more paradoxical teachings from Jesus that are actually His “win-win” solution for our many problems like wars and other forms of enmities.  Unfortunately, we have never given them a try because we always complain the ways of the Lord as being far from realities of life, impossible to imitate because He is God and we are not.
Today let us set aside all these reservations and arguments to reflect on this new set of paradoxical teachings by the Lord:  Jesus said to his disciples:  “To you who hear I say, love your enemies.od to those who hate you, bless those who curse, pray for those who mistreat you… But rather, love your enemies and do good to them.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  For the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you” (Lk.6:27-28, 35, 36, 38).  
It is very striking that Jesus repeated twice His call to “love your enemies”.
Does He not care about us who have to bear with the sins of evil people?  What a good news to those who hate us, curse us, and mistreat us!  Suwerte sila!   We would surely say they must be so lucky, even blessed with us who strive to heed the calls of Jesus to love them our enemies.
But, on deeper reflections, we are actually more blessed when we try to love our enemies because that is when we elevate – or “level up” as kids would say – our hearts to be merciful like God.  Experts claim that the best way to exact revenge against people who have hurt us is to shower them with good deeds and kindness from us they have offended.  According to these experts in counselling and psychology, evil people get disappointed and angrier with themselves when their evil plots fail especially when their targets do not react negatively.  They sound understandable because evil people derive joy in making people miserable.  So, why be miserable?
 
 
Far from being their “punching bag”, the Lord simply wants us to teach our enemies to respect us, to be kind to us by not being like themselves.  In loving our enemies, we teach evil people that more powerful than sin is the power of love.  Sin and evil consume a person while love and kindness make a person grow and mature and bloom to fullness. 
Far from being passive, to love our enemies by returning evil with good is always the most active method in fighting sins.  When Jesus asked us to offer the other side of our cheeks to those who slap our face or when we give them our tunic when they demand our cloak, we are showing these evil people that love is never exhausted unlike evil.  Love is boundless and the more we love, the more we have it, the more we keep on doing it.  Evil, on the other hand, reaches a saturation point that we get fed up with it, then we we stop doing it because it is exhausting and worst, consumes us within that in the
process destroys us.  Think of the most evil person you have known and surely, you find that person so ugly, so zapped of life and energy, eaten up from within by a festering wound.  Evil people will never have peace and joy within, glow on their face and skin because they are rotting inside like zombies.
In the first reading we heard how David as a type of Christ foregoing vengeance by holding on to God, trusting Him completely that he chose not to strike King Saul who was then trying to kill him out of jealousy.  As disciples of the Lord, we have to trust in the Word of God that can transform our hearts of stone into natural hearts filled with love and mercy like Him.  This is the point being explained by St. Paul in the second reading wherein Christ as the “second Adam from heaven” had made us bear the “heavenly image”despite our “earthly image” that is weak and sinful having come from the “first Adam from earth”.  Through Baptism, we have been endowed with all the necessary grace from God, transforming us into better persons of heaven.
 
 

One of my favorite sayings came from the desk of a friend of mine I used to visit in their office that says “If you have love in your heart, you have been blessed by God; if you have been loved, you have been touched by God.” 

See how God has loved us so immensely without measure!  Remember that scene two Sundays ago when Jesus borrowed the boat of Simon as He would do with our voice, with our hands, with our total selves?  Who are we or what do we really have and own that the almighty God would borrow from us?  Nothing!  Yet, Jesus comes to us daily with all His love without measure to bless us with everything we need.  So, who are we now to love by measuring everything, loving only those who love us, lending only to those who could repay us? 

Imagine how astonishingly disproportionate is the love of God with our kind of love.  It is in this light must we see the meaning of Christ’s final lesson this Sunday: “For the measure with which you measure will in turn be measured out to you.”   So paradoxical and provocative yet so true!  This Sunday, may we share God’s love in our hearts with others, especially with our enemies so they may also experience the loving and merciful touch of God.  Then we begin to realize too the “win-win” solution of Christ to humanity. Amen.  Have a blessed week! Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan.

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Side garden of the Church of the Beatitudes with the Lake of Galilee at the background.  Photo by the author, April 2017.

“Ashes to Ashes” by Dennis Lambert (1972)

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Yehliu Geopark in Taiwan with “mushroom” rock formations at the background.  Photo by the author, 30 January 2019.

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 17 February 2019

Every year when Valentine’s comes, I only think of one song:  Dennis Lambert’s “Of All the Things”.  It is probably the ultimate love song of all time especially for us die-hard romantic Filipinos that even Sr. Bubbles Bandojo, rc covered it for a Jesuit CD of popular songs often sung in weddings in the country.  No wonder, Dennis Lambert gained a cult following in the country for that song he released in 1972 from the album “Bags and Things”.

Another cut from that great album is “Ashes to Ashes” which I find as a perfect match for our gospel this Sunday about the Beatitudes preached by Jesus Christ during His sermon on the plain based on St. Luke’s gospel.  In the Beatitudes, Jesus tells us true blessedness and happiness in following Him is being poor, hungry, weeping, and hated by others.  They are paradoxical because they run directly against the values of the world and yet, we know deep in our hearts how they are very true!  Life is not about having and amassing but giving and sharing.  Dennis Lambert reminds us that in the end, we are all “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”  And there lies the great paradox in this life that Jesus has always reminded us, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it” (Lk.17:33).  The saints who have followed the Lord knew it so well and lived it through as well as poets, writers and musicians like Lambert wrote about it too.  A blessed Sunday to you!