Knowing, believing, loving Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XIX-B in Ordinary Time, 08 August 2021
1 Kings 19:4-8 ><]]]]'> Ephesians 4:30-5:2 ><]]]]'> John 6:41-51
Photo by Mr. Vigie Ongleo, 04 August 2021, Singapore.
Elijah went a day's journey into the desert,
until he came to a broom tree and sat 
beneath it.  He prayed for death, 
saying:  "This is enough, O Lord!
Take my life, for I am no better
than my fathers." (2 Kings 19:4)

Many of us can probably identify with the Prophet Elijah in the first reading today: so tired and fed up with all the sufferings and trials that seem unending with another round of lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.

“This is enough, O Lord!”

Elijah was not the only one to cry out to God in that way: there were Moses, Jeremiah, and Jonas who cried in a similar way while bent under the heavy load of responsibilities on their shoulders from God who never failed in coming to their rescue with his comforting and reassuring words of encouragement.

And this time as we have heard from the first reading, God sent Elijah with bread from heaven to sustain his 40 day journey to Mt. Horeb to escape the soldiers of Queen Jezebel out to kill him after a showdown with the priests of baal at Mount Carmel. God nourishes us not only spiritually and emotionally but also physically and materially if we know him, believe him, and love him in Jesus Christ his Son!

This is the context of the continuation of Jesus Christ’s second bread of life discourse at Capernaum, very timely in these two weeks of our fourth Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) as we rely on God’s mercy and protection against COVID-19 and its new Delta variant.

Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos, March 2020.

Knowing Jesus.

When the people finally caught up with Jesus and his disciples last Sunday at Capernaum, the Lord immediately began his bread of life discourse by declaring “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst” (Jn. 6:35).

That is the first time in the fourth gospel where Jesus introduced himself with the “I AM” declaration very crucial for John in presenting him as the Christ, the Son of God. This would be followed later by similar statements when Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the vine”, and “I am the resurrection”.

Recall how God told Moses to say to his people in Egypt that he was sent by “I am who am”; hence, when Jesus says “I AM”, it was a cue of who he is – the One who had come down from heaven!

The Jews murmured about Jesus because he said, “I am the bread that came down heaven,” and they said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph? Do we not know his father and mother? Then how can he say, ‘I have come down from heaven?'” Jesus answered and said to them, “Stop murmuring among yourselves.”

John 6:41-43

Reminiscent of the desert experience when the people murmured against God for lack of food and water, John also begins referring to the crowd as “Jews” to indicate their lack of belief in Jesus, like their forefathers who doubted God in the wilderness. Here we find something so common even to our own time of “knowing” God we so easily claim with everybody even if what we know does not square up with the reality.

Knowing is not purely cerebral. In the Jewish culture, to know is to enter into a relationship. Unlike us Filipinos who are so fond of name dropping when we usually tell everyone how we know somebody’s name and address like on Facebook – even if we are not friends or related at all!


To know anyone especially God by entering 
into a relationship requires an opening of the mind.  
That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, 
telling them and us today to stop limiting 
ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is 
because so often, we hardly know him at all! 

To know anyone especially God by entering into a relationship requires an opening of one’s mind. That is why Jesus told the crowd to stop murmuring, telling them and us today to stop limiting ourselves to what we know who the Lord really is because we hardly know him at all!

We keep on receiving him in Holy Communion not as the Person but more as the Bread or Sacred Host; we go to Mass but hardly celebrate it with him; and lastly, we know Jesus more as provider and giver, rarely as companion and friend, most of all as Savior.

The Jews have refused to believe in Jesus at the very start because they have always been closed from knowing him, insisting they know better, that he is the “son of Joseph”. We have seen how last Sunday in their asking of “Rabbi, when did you get here?” in Capernaum was cloaked in suspicion at how was he able to cross the lake at night when winds were strong and waves were huge, unmindful of the signs he had shown in feeding them all at a deserted place.

Their knowing of Jesus as well as of God and the Scriptures have remained superficial, stuck in the material level manifested in their being too legalistic and ritualistic in religion without any regard for the people especially the sick and marginalized. Most of all, they did not seem to really believe in God as they saw more of themselves as God himself who knows everything!

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, March 2020.

Believing, loving Jesus.

All these words and actions by Jesus during his public ministry at Galilee and Jerusalem later would be used by his enemies against him, wrongly accusing him of blasphemy and disregard for the Laws or Torah. Their minds were all closed to God’s coming in Jesus or at least to his heavenly origin.

Jesus tried to clarify it with them by referring to God his Father, citing the prophet Isaiah:

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draw him, and I will raise him on the last day. It is written by the prophets: They shall all be taught by God. Everyone who listen to my Father and learns from him comes to me. Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”

John 6:44-45, 47-48, 50-51

Now here we find Jesus taking off to higher level in his discourse, from knowing to believing that is perfected in loving. As we have said, knowing is relating. It is through our relationship with God that we are taught through Jesus Christ in knowing all about him. Yes, God in the Old Testament revealed himself to the Chosen People through the prophets and his Laws. But now, Jesus is telling the people that God is revealing himself through him, the Son who had come from heaven with the gift of faith.

As a gift, it is not like an ordinary present given to just one or several persons privileged to receive it like the Israelites in the Old Testament; faith as a gift from the Father is freely given to everyone for all time. Jesus is now inviting his audience in Capernaum including us today to open one’s mind, to level up in thinking and understanding because it is above the realm of material world but of spirituality that leads to relating, believing, and loving to be expressed later in the Eucharist, the sign of his self-sacrifice on the Cross.

Recall how last Sunday Jesus stressed that it is a work of God, not of men – that is faith! It is a gift from God freely given to everyone which every individual must “turn on” like a switch and make it operate. In that discourse also, Jesus added that the ultimate fulfillment of this faith in God as work of God is faith in himself, the Son sent by the Father.

In this scene alone, Jesus had mentioned the word “bread” five times, repeating it to the crowd like in a crescendo, rising from a sapiential or cerebral and material meaning into something so profound, higher level inviting us to put on our faith in him as he continues to reveal the Father’s plan for all mankind for all time leading to eternity.

And what is it that remains into eternity? LOVE!

"Love is fully sufficient to itself;
when it enters the heart,
it absorbs all other feelings.
The soul who loves,
loves and knows nothing more."
(St. Bernard of Clairvaux)
Photo from Dr. Yangas Colleges Inc., Bocaue, Bulacan in one of their community pantry called “Paraya”, May 2021.

Jesus is now hinting at his discourse the Eucharist as the meaning of the sign he did at the deserted place when he fed and satisfied the more than 5000 people from just five loaves of bread and two fish. Notice the words “eats” and “flesh” – indications of the elevation of knowing into believing, blossoming in love.

To eat his flesh is to accept Jesus, to be one in him and with him through one another. Knowing Jesus, relating with him means believing him, loving him through one another.

Faith is closely linked with love, they always go hand in hand because whoever believes truly always loves!

St. Paul sums up everything that Jesus had taught this Sunday with his call to us to “live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma” (Eph.5:1-2).

It is very difficult to dissect knowing, believing and loving, of finding the very cause of faith and love except in Jesus Christ who had come to us and continues to come in every Eucharistic celebration. There are times we can be aware of the reasons why we believe and love God and our beloved, even explain what we find so lovable in them but still difficult to locate with precision the starting point of everything. That is why at the end of this discourse two weeks from now, we find everybody leaving Jesus except the Twelve who chose to remain with him.

In this life, we may know so many things but we cannot know everything like God.

Let us stop murmuring, stop all talks and sink into silent prayer, opening our minds and our hearts to Jesus to receive him not only in words but in himself as Body and Blood in the Holy Mass so we can start loving him in one another to make life more bearable in these trying times. Amen.

Have a blessed and safe week ahead!

Photo by author, 2019.

A “Monday exam” prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Third Week of Easter, 19 April 2021
Acts 6:8-15   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   John 6:22-29
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2015.

Your words in the first reading today sound like an exam, a personal quiz for each of us your follower and student, Lord Jesus.

Are we like "Stephen, filled with grace and power, 
working great wonders among the people?" (Acts 6:8)
Are we like Stephen who spoke with wisdom
and the Spirit? (Acts 6:10)
Are we like Stephen accused falsely
for echoing your teachings, Lord Jesus Christ? (Acts 6:13)

Forgive us Lord when lately we have been lacking in courage and vigor and enthusiasm in teaching and speaking what is true, what is just, what is good.

Sorry when we are no longer bothered by the many inconvenient truths prevailing these days, from the rampant disrespect for life and of the environment to our silence to injustices happening around us.

Fill us with your Holy Spirit, dear Jesus, to be bold enough like Stephen in following your life by witnessing your stance for what is right and true, just and holy. Enable us to perceive the deeper meaning of things happening in us and around us that are signs of your presence, indicating your will and mission for us.

May we work for “the food that endures for eternal life” (Jn.6:27) by first believing wholly in you as the Son of God to whom we must pledge our total and unconditional commitment.

More than receiving you as the Bread of Life in the Holy Communion, may we realize that to believe in you dear Jesus is to be like you – a bread who nourishes others with one’s total self giving in loving service founded on justice and respect for one another. Amen.

From Be Like Francis page at Facebook, 14 April 2021.

Easter is leveling up in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter, 13 April 2021
Acts 4:32-37   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   John 3:7-15
Photo by Cristian Pasion, Easter Vigil at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, 03 April 2021.
Jesus said to Nicodemus,
"If I tell you about earthly things
and you do not believe,
how will you believe 
if I tell you about heavenly things?"
(John 3:12)

Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to us, in becoming human like us so that we may become divine like you. Unfortunately, so many times in life, we refuse to believe in your humanity, in your being human like us that we cannot understand earthly things.

Like Nicodemus in the gospel who had come to you hiding in the darkness of the night to enlighten his own spiritual darkness within, we come to you at this time of our history when everything seems to be crumbling, everything is getting out of control.

Teach us to believe in you again, Jesus, that you are the Son of God. Level up our sights and thoughts, let us be more concerned with things of the above than those of below that unfortunately distract us from real issues at hand when we get ourselves involved with mundane inanities like many of our benighted officials in government still detached with the people and with the realities happening.

How can we be of “one mind and one heart” with you, Lord, in this time of crisis? Sometimes it is so tempting to get down to the level of our officials who have always been caught lying, so detached from the people, lacking any clear plans for the pandemic since last year.

Send us someone like St. Barnabas who would encourage us to do something concrete in helping the suffering among us in this time of the pandemic.

Level up our sights and consciousness so we may think more of the things above than waste time and energies with petty discussions that lead nowhere.

It is only in being focused on you, dear Jesus, on your very person and your mission, can we truly address our many earthly needs that are always self-serving and selfish.

Direct all our actions, operations and intentions purely to the divine service of your name, Lord, so that everything we do may begin and happily end in you. Amen.

Lent is “seeing” Jesus

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-B, 21 March 2021
Jeremiah 31:31-34  +  Hebrews 5:7-9  +  John 12:20-33
Photo by author, details of the Seventh Station of the Cross at the St. Ildephonse Parish Church in Tanay, Rizal, January 2021.

In the beautiful church of the town of Tanay in Rizal is found a most unique Seventh Station of the Cross where one of those depicted when Jesus fell for the second time is a man with dark glasses looking afar. Local residents say the man with sunglasses is Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus who led the Sanhedrin at his trial leading to his crucifixion.

Nobody can explain exactly why the artist portrayed that man wore sunglasses that was popular among people of stature and position in the country when the carving was made in 1785. Also interesting aside from the man in shades are the soldiers with him shown with Malay features of brown color and wide eyes opened, all looking somewhere except for one looking at the Lord while clutching his garment as he fell looking heavenwards.

I remembered this piece of work of art inside the Tanay Parish Church declared by the National Museum as “National Cultural Treasure” because our gospel today speaks about a request by some pagans to see Jesus. Seeing has many meanings, always leading to believing. And sometimes, it is in believing we are able to see most of all!

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then andfrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

John 12:20-25

Seeing to believe

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Infanta, Quezon 2020.

As we have been mentioning three Sundays ago, the fourth gospel uses poetic expressions and symbolisms to convey deeper truths and realities about Jesus and our very selves, our having or lacking faith in God. Like the act of seeing by those Greeks who requested Philip “to see Jesus”.

If they simply wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, they could have easily seen the Lord who was always at the temple area at that time. Jesus had always been available to everyone like last Sunday when Nicodemus went to see him at night.

But, John often used the verb to see in many senses that also mean to believe like in his appearance a week after Easter to his disciples along with doubting Thomas: Jesus said to him “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn.20:29).

Most mysterious for me in John’s use of the verb to see is in the call of the Lord’s first disciples led by Andrew: He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went where he was staying and saw where he was staying… Andrew followed Jesus. He first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn.1:39-41).

What did Andrew see that he later told his brother Simon that they have found the Messiah?

Of course, John’s most notable use of the verb to see is from that scene at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday when the perfect model of the believer is the “other disciple” whom Jesus loved “went in, and he saw and believed” (Jn.20:8).

Very clear in the mind of John that the request of those Greeks to see Jesus was one of faith, of meeting and speaking with Jesus to be enlightened more like Nicodemus last Sunday. Here we find our important role of being another Philip and Andrew, leading other people to see Jesus.

Those Greeks described as “God-fearing” were pagans attracted to the teachings of Judaism and came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover Feast. They already have faith in God that must have been awakened further when they heard the teachings of Jesus; hence, their request to see Jesus.

It happens so often that when by the grace of God people are illuminated with faith even in the most personal manner, they still need Philips and Andrews who would enable them “to see” Jesus to grow and be deepened in faith. There will always be a need for an apostle who could lead others to “see” Jesus because faith happens within a community, within the Church and through others’ mediation.

And here lies the bigger challenge for us disciples for us to make Jesus “seen” in our lives and in our community.

Believing to see.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just as a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

John 12:23-26, 32-33

In a sudden twist, John tells us nothing if those “God-fearing” pagans saw Jesus at all because the Lord immediately went on a discourse after being told by Andrew and Philip of the request, briefly interrupted by God’s voice speaking from heaven that everybody heard in the temple area.

Speaking in the parable of the grain of wheat dying first in order to produce much fruit, Jesus tells us how we can lead others to truly see him in us and through us by having the same determination and perseverance to follow him, stay with him, and be like him by dying to ones self for others. For the grain of wheat to die and spring forth to new life, it has to be detached. And so are we.

Notice Jesus repeating that sign of his being lifted up on the cross he mentioned last Sunday to Nicodemus. John mentions it again in this part of his gospel adding an explanation at the end because for him, the Crucifixion is Christ’s greatest sign and revelation of his glory, opening a path for us back to God in his Cross, through his Cross.

In teaching us about the parable of the grain of wheat dying and linking it with his being “lifted up”, Jesus now tells us and every “God-fearing” person that we can only “see” him in the scandal of the Cross.

Did those God-fearing Greeks remained in Jerusalem and saw Jesus on the Cross?

We do not know but we are sure that anyone who requests to see Jesus always sees him if we believe first in his crucifixion which is when everyone is drawn to him as he had said. We must first believe Christ died so we may see him risen to life.

It was on Christ’s dying on the cross when God established a “new covenant” among us as prophesied by Jeremiah in our first reading today, giving us all an access to him in Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus which we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, 2020.

Grappling with death to see life

We have never seen the crucifixion of Jesus except in its portrayals in the many movies we used to watch in Holy Week; but, its realities are etched and impressed in our hearts through the many trials and difficulties we have gone through in life that we believe Jesus truly died. And because of that, we have also seen him alive!

Such is the reality of seeing Jesus that every time we describe something so difficult, so trying, we equate it with death like when we say “we felt like dying” taking the exam. And the good news is when we overcome the tests that we use again the word or concept of death to describe something so good as it leads us to glory like when we say a pizza or a steak or a cake to die for.

Such is the paradox and scandal of the Cross of Jesus: we can never see him risen in glory if we avoid and refuse seeing his Passion and Death right in our own selves, in our painful experiences.

Going back to that unique Seventh Station of the Cross at the Tanay Parish Church, I realized how the unbelievers and others among us could not see Jesus as the Christ because they have refused to believe in him first especially when they are down with all kinds of problems and trials, looking somewhere else instead of seeing Jesus fallen in front of them.

Let us believe in Jesus so we may see him in this final week of Lent as we prepare for Palm Sunday next. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, January 2021.

Postscript-2 to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 October 2020
Statue of St. Paul at the Malolos Cathedral by the famed ecclesiastical artist Willy Layug.

Today we conclude our reflections – or “postscript” – to St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians about faith we heard proclaimed in the weekday readings two weeks ago from October 05-14, 2020.

A truly faithful person 
is one who is also free.

We have said that faith is a relationship with God and with others like in marriage and friendship. When our faith with God and with persons is strong with conviction and realistic, then the more we become free because there is no room for doubts that we are not loved.

Brothers and sisters: Scripture confined all things under the power of sin, that through faith in Jesus Christ the promise might be given to those who believe. Before faith came, we were held in custody under law, confined for the faith that was to be revealed. Consequently, the law was our disciplinarian for Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a disciplinarian.

Galatians 3:22-25

Recall those times we have felt imprisoned and chained by the past with all of our broken and toxic relationships, sickness and handicaps, failures and sins, and other painful memories: that was when we wavered in our faith, when we lacked conviction in our faith.

We have to be convinced that Jesus came to set us free from all forms of slavery that prevent us from growing and maturing in faith and freedom in him. When our faith is strong, then we are able to break the many barriers that imprison us like gender, color, language, social status and even religion.

Nourish our faith to be free to become our true selves!

Photo by author, 2019.

Faith works through love.

It is God’s gift of faith that enables us to do good, to do our works of charity and love. And because we are faithful and free, then we also love!

Incidentally, being faithful and free are always tied up with being able to love because love is a choice, a decision we make, not just feelings or emotions.

Every choice is made out of freewill and here is the most interesting part of being faithful and free and loving: like love, man is able to believe and trust because it is God who first believed and trusted us!

A faithful person is always a loving person because he is free to choose what is good, what is right. And the more faithful we become to God, to your spouse, to your family and friends, the more loving you become like them!

For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:6

Without faith, it is difficult for us to love because of the pains that come always in loving.

Without faith, it is impossible to forgive and be merciful, to let go of others’ infidelity and lack of love and concern because these are virtues and values that come only from within, from a loving heart that is also faithful where Jesus Christ dwells and reigns.


A few years ago, GMA-7 launched its talent search called Starstruck inviting young people to… Dream. Believe. Survive.

For us Christians, it is… Dream. Believe. Live.

The moment we believe, then we are able to see, even God hidden among each one of us. Amen.

*All photos by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Quezon, 2020.

Living in the presence of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Martha, 29 July 2020
1 John 4:7-16 >><}}}*> ))+(( <*{{{><< John 11:19-27
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate, Novaliches, Quezon City, 2018.

Thank you very much Lord Jesus Christ is sending us holy women like St. Martha whose Memorial we celebrate today. Seven days ago we celebrated the feast of her younger sister St. Mary Magdalene.

How nice of you coming to visit families, even calling brothers and sisters as your disciples like St. Peter and St. Andrew, St. James the Greater and St. John, and now, St. Martha and her siblings St. Mary and St. Lazarus.

What a beautiful reminder for us today so busy with other people like friends and clients and everybody else except family: that you always come first in the family, among husband and wife, parents and. children, and siblings.

Most of all, in the life of St. Martha, you remind us of the need to be present in you and with you every time you come for a visit.

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise.” Martha said to him, “I know he will rise, in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and anyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world.”

John 11:23-27

Many times, Lord Jesus, you come to us to be present with us but we are always absent from you like St. Martha.

Like her, so often we are working for you, doing for you, so busy because of you without realizing you prefer us to be doing your work by first being present in you.

There are times, we overthink of your words and of your thoughts we forget the present moment like when you told St. Martha that her brother Lazarus would rise again: we believe in our minds than in our hearts that we look more into the future than in the present moment when our departed loved ones can be truly present with us in you.

As we keep ourselves preoccupied with so many tasks here on earth, teach us also, sweet Jesus like St. Martha that in the resurrection of the dead, we shall all be present in you and with you as the one serving us all in the heavenly banquet. May we choose wisely what is most important like her sister St. Mary. Amen.

From Pinterest.

Tunay na pagpapala

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-14 ng Mayo 2020
Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019.
Madalas nating isipin
mapalad o pinagpala
ang taong walang tiisin
buhay ay sagana at magaan
walang pinapasang hirap at sakit
nabibili lahat ng magustuhan:
malaking tirahan, magarang sasakyan
hindi kinakailangan may pinag-aralan
basta't mayaman
wala tayong pakialam
saan nagmula kanyang kaban
na tila di nauubusan kahit baon sa utang.
Huwag nating lilimutin
ang tunay na pagpapala 
wala doon sa kayang bilhin
anoman ibigin, pagkain o inumin
o doon sa matatamo sa pagsisikap natin:
kapangyarihan at pangalan, maski pangangatawan.
Ang tunay na pagpapala
nagmumula lamang sa Diyos
hindi materyal kungdi espiritwal
kaya nang mangaral si Jesus sa burol
lahat ay nagimbal dahil kanyang pinangaral
salungat sa takbo at hangad ng sanlibutan. 
Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019
Mapapalad kayong mga aba,
mga nahahapis at mapagkumbaba;
mapapalad din kayong mga mahabagin,
mga nagmimithing makatupad sa kalooban ng Diyos,
lalo na mga gumagawa ng pagkakasundo
at mayroong malilinis na puso.
Mapalad din mga pinag-uusig
at inaalimura, 
pinagwiwikaan ng kasinungalingan
alang-alang sa Panginoong Hesus 
na di lang minsan tiniyak ang tunay na mapalad 
ay yaong nakikinig, tumatalima sa salita ng Diyos.
At sino ang unang tumanggap, 
tumalima sa Salitang naging Tao
kungdi si Maria na Ina ng Kristo
na bukod na pinagpala sa babaeng lahat!
Alalahanin matapos niyang tanggapin
bilin ng anghel ng pagsilang niya sa Emanuel
nagmadali siyang dalawin si Elizabeth
nakatatandang pinsang nagdadalantao rin;
pagkarinig sa kanyang tinig
kinasihan ng Espiritung Banal at ang nausal
"mapalad ka sapagkat nananalig kang matutupad
ang mga ipinasabi sa iyo ng Panginoon."
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Simbahan ng Visitation sa Israel, Mayo 2017.
Ngayong panahon ng pandemya
hindi pa ba natin nakikita
walang saysay at kahulugan
mga inakala nating pagpapala
gaya ng kayamanan at kapangyarihan 
o maging kalusugan?
Sa lahat ng panahon na sadyang walang katiyakan
wala tayong ibang kaseguruhan, maaring sandigan
kungdi ang Panginoong Diyos lamang!
Kaya kung ikaw ay magdarasal
laging hilingin tanging pagpapala sa Maykapal 
pananalig at paniniwala salita niya di naglalaho parang bula. 
Larawang kuha ng may-akda, Linggo ng Bibliya, 26 Enero 2020.

True blessedness

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14 <*(((>< 000+000 ><)))*> Luke 1:39-47

Our Lady of Fatima procession at the Fatima Shrine in Portugal, 2017. Photo from vaticannews.va.

O God our Father, today we come to you on this most trying time in modern history at the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic that has disrupted our lives – for better and for worse – to ask for your mercy and healing.

As we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima who had appeared in Portugal 103 years ago today, we are reminded by the Blessed Mother of your Son Jesus Christ that true blessedness is not being wealthy and powerful, of being well and strong but above all of believing in you, our God Almighty.

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb… Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”

Luke 1:41-42, 45

COVID-19 has shown us that in this life, true blessedness is not found in money and things, nor in popularity and influence or other things that have become the benchmark of everything that is good in this life.

Our lady of Fatima Shrine in Fatima, Portugal. Photo from Pinterest.

In less than six months, the corona virus had shown us what the Lady of Fatima has always been telling us since 1917: to go back to you, God our Father through your Son Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Thank you in giving us all a Mother in the Blessed Virgin Mary who is the perfect image and model of discipleship in Christ:

-Mary was the first to believe in Jesus by receiving him in her womb;

-Mary was the first to share the Incarnate Word by visiting her cousin Elizabeth while six months pregnant with his precursor John;

– Mary was the first to believe in the saving work of Jesus when she interceded at a wedding in Cana;

  • Mary was the first to believe in the Resurrection that she remained standing at the foot of the Cross; and,
  • Mary was the first to believe in the coming of the Holy Spirit that she accompanied the Apostles praying at Jerusalem on Pentecost day.

Like Mary, may we grow deeper in our faith, believe more in you than believe in the world or with our very selves.

Like Mary, may we bring unity to our family and community, church and nation, so we may help strengthening the faith of one another, in believing in you by submitting ourselves to your holy will.

Teach us, Lord, to be simple and humble so we may believe more in you. Amen.

Why believe?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Memorial of St. Pius V, 30 April 2020

Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40 <*(((>< 000 ><)))*> John 6:44-51

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, 2020.

It is the last day of April 2020 and we still cannot rejoice, Lord, because we still have to continue with our enhanced community quarantine until the 15th of next month to further control the spread of the dreaded COVID-19 virus.

Yes, it is very difficult and sad for everyone but deep inside each one of us is the excitement too of seeing that day finally when the pandemic is finally over and the corona virus wiped away.

And that is why we have to believe in you, O God our Father for you alone is the God of history, you have the final say at how things are in this life and the good news is, you always ensure that even tragedies and miseries end for our own good.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.”

John 6:47

Yes, Lord Jesus, we believe in you because we want to see how all these things will end, if not in this life then in the eternity.

We have to believe to understand further and accept how things are in this life.

Like St. Pius V, the first Dominican Pope, he believed in your presence and power in the praying of the Holy Rosary that helped the Spanish Armada crushed the Ottoman Turks in Lepanto Bay to finally stop them from getting into Europe any further.

Incidentally, every Rosary begins with the Credo, “I believe in God…”

He believed in your works, O Lord, that despite the gargantuan tasks ahead of him, St. Pius pushed for the reforms of the Council of Trent that revitalized the whole Church after the Protestantism movement that swept the whole of Europe at that time.

We have to believe because believing is the starting point of everything in you; without it, we can never see through and look beyond to discover more meanings in life here and thereafter. Amen.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Transforming presence of God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 20 December 2019

Isaiah 7:10-14 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 1:26-38

Manor House, Camp John Hay, December 2017. Photo by author.

One reason Christmas is the most favorite time of the year is its colors. From houses to malls and almost every building, one can find a spectacular display of different colors and lights that brighten everyone.

But everything changes when one enters the church.

Advent is so different. Color is violet near the deep blue shade to signify the importance of conversion and penance that lead into transformation while the colors of the world found in malls are about money and material things.

Our parish sanctuary area, Advent 2019.

God takes initiative

We have seen yesterday in St. Luke’s first Christmas story how God entered through human activities and history for the coming of Jesus Christ by first announcing the birth of his precursor, St. John the Baptizer.

But today, in his second Christmas story which is the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus to the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Lukes shows us how God is now acting on his own. Of course, God always takes the initiatives in life being the “prime mover”.

But in announcing the birth of Jesus, God went “out of his way” so to speak to bring us this tremendous grace of Christmas as he would always do in many instances in our lives.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to 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 yo.” 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 and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus .”

Luke 1:26-31
Mosaic of the Annunciation to Mary at the Shrine of St. Padre Pio at Rotondo, Italy. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, 2018.

So different from yesterday’s story of the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptizer to Zechariah, let us see how God took the initiative in the annunciation in the birth of Jesus to Mary.

  1. Zechariah was a priest while Mary was a commoner. It was natural for God to work through his ministers but in choosing Mary an ordinary woman was something else not because of any special quality she had but simply because God is good. The angel clearly told this to Mary, “you have found favor with God”. God does not call the qualified but he qualifies the call!
  2. God used the setting of the Temple of Jerusalem in yesterday’s account because that is where he is supposed to dwell but today, everything happened in a very simple house in Nazareth, the only place of significance and importance in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament. It was a place looked down upon by many like St. Bartholomew asking Philip, “can anyone good come from Nazareth?”
  3. There was a major feast going on, the Yom Kippur, with a lot of people present when Zechariah was informed of the birth of John; Mary was alone in her house when the angel came to announce to her the birth of Jesus on the six months after going to Zechariah.

Intense Presence of God and of Mary

Usually, as we have seen yesterday in the annunciation of the birth of John, God always acted in silence and hiddenness. He blends and flows with world history as well as with our own personal histories.

But, there are times even in our own experiences when God really pulls something extraordinary, a miracle to bless us, to save us.

That was the case in the Annunciation to Mary. God “freely acted on his own” for the good news to happen, regardless of whoever was the king of Judea or emperor of Rome. He set the stage and everything for the fulfillment of his plan of salvation for us.

And the very good thing here is we find a perfect congruence or an equilibrium wherein, God was intensely present and so was Mary.

In the annunciation of John’s birth, God was very much present answering the prayers of his parents but Zechariah was miserably absent, doubting the good news!

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38

God is always coming to us in many instances and persons who come to our lives. Are we present to him?

Notice how she entered into a dialogue with the angel Gabriel in explaining how things would happen. She was so open and so absorbed too as if the Holy Spirit must have had a perfect landing on her that she became pregnant with Jesus!

It sounds funny but that was how it happened because tomorrow, we would hear St. Luke telling us how Mary hurriedly went off to see her cousin Elizabeth, meaning there was a transforming change that occurred in Mary right away!

And that is how God truly works – if we can be truly open like Mary with God’s intense presence, we can experience overnight conversion and transformation that we have heard experienced by many unbelievers, sinners, addicts of all kinds. All they could say was there was a very brief moment when they felt God so intensely present and boom! everything changed for the best.

Mary believed

Mary was not only open to God but most of all, she has always believed in him. See how St. Luke tells us after the Annunciation, “then the angel departed from her”, never to come again to inform her of special messages from God unlike St. Joseph.

After the Annunciation, Mary was left on her own in the sense that all she had was her firm faith in God through Jesus Christ her Son.

Mary believed in everything that was spoken to her! It was all she had up to the foot of the Cross when Christ died, when she waited with the apostles in Jerusalem for the Pentecost and in all her other apparitions later. She has always believed in Jesus her Son.

Today, we complain a lot of people no longer believing in God, leaving the Church, refusing to pray and celebrate the sacraments.

Perhaps it is about time for us to ask our very selves too, especially us your priests and pastors as well as the parents: do we truly believe what we are doing, what we are practicing as Catholics?

It is always easy to say we believe in God like King Ahaz in the first reading who refused to ask God for signs that Israel would be delivered from the advancing Babylonians.

It was merely a “show” because Ahaz had already entered into alliance with small kingdoms to fight the Babylonian invaders. He had never believed God or his Prophet Isaiah; hence, Israel was conquered and crushed as a nation, thrown into exile in Babylon for a long time.

A Filipino painting of the Annunciation to Mary on a wall facing the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Photo by author May 2017.

God’s power and his intense presence can only work in proportion with the faith we have. This is what Jesus had told the apostles when they asked him to “increase their faith”: “If you have the faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to the mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and panted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Lk.17:5-6).

In another instance, the apostles failed to cast away the demon possessing the son of a certain man. After Jesus had driven away the evil spirit, his apostles came to him in private to ask, “Why could we not cast it out? And Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your little faith'” (Mt.17:19).

Like Mary, let us believe wholly to God by giving our whole selves to him. Let us create a room in ourselves for God so he can be present in us and transform us like Mary. Amen.