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

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

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.

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)

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!