What surprises you?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 August 2022
Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

I recently attended a children’s party when the youngest daughter of a friend, Mimi, turned seven years old. And I was so glad that I came because of the great fun I had at the magic show, clapping my hands and cheering along with all the kids and their parents.

It was so “aliw” as we say in Filipino.

Very comforting.

Not just entertaining.

Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

There was total sense of wonder in me, of pure joy seeing doves and flowers suddenly coming out of the magician’s clenched fists or folded handkerchief even if I knew it was just a trick or a sleigh of hand.

The most beautiful part of the party, of the joy and comfort was the chance for me to be like a child again as Jesus had repeatedly told us in the gospel that “unless you become like little children, you shall never inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

Imagine the great joy and comfort of believing again at what one sees and hears.

Of suspending reason and logic.

Of just enjoying the moment, of not thinking so much.

Of being like a child again at the circus or fair – “perya” as we call it in the province.

Most of all, of being caught in the magic of wonder and surprise, eagerly awaiting what’s next or how did it happen as you scratch your head while looking at the person next to you with those eyes so bewildered as you laugh out loud because you both know it was just a trick yet so true, so real.

It was so comforting because I had lost senses of time, of reason and of reality that often lead us to many anxieties of things to do and accomplish. Like Mimi the birthday celebrator, I felt I have grown and matured after regaining life, of enjoying life, of believing again in the many mysteries of this life that we can never explain nor even understand at all except to accept simply as it is like children.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son in our former parish in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, January 2020.

To be like a child means to owe one’s existence to another, of being open to every possibility in life, of trusting that there is someone greater than us or anyone we call God who can talk to us through others who may even be different from us like the magician in his tuxedo and magic wand. That is why magic shows are not only entertaining but also comforting or nakakaaliw in Filipino. The word comfort is from the two Latin words cum fortis that literally mean “to strengthen”.

This is the reason why I think children “grow so fast” – they are always surprised because they are open that they are emboldened to try everything, trusting they can do it, that somebody is watching over them, that they are in good hands. Try observing an infant asleep in a crib when suddenly would kick his/her feet or move hands. My mom used to tell me that when babies are surprised – nagugulat – that means they were growing.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, sunrise at Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

See how the Blessed Virgin Mary had grown and matured after being told by the angel that she would be the Mother of the Messiah to be sent by God. She was probably 15 or 16 at that time but had kept that child-like attitude of openness, of being surprised which her Son would be teaching later. Mary must have been so wrapped in awe and wonder upon hearing the angel’s annunciation to her.

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29

Try to feel the resulting joy and fear of Mary in hearing the good news of the birth of the Messiah through her!

Right there, we could feel her faith in God at work, listening intently as the angel explained everything to her.

In the Old Testament, we find Jacob the younger son of Isaac having that same attitude of being like a child, of being open to God coming in every possibility. Remember when he fled to escape the murderous plot of his elder brother Esau after he had duped their father in bestowing his blessing to him?

On his way toward Haran, Jacob stopped at a certain shrine at sundown and took one of the stones there to place under his head as he slept for the night. It was then when he dreamt of “stairway to heaven” where angels were going up and down before God who spoke to assure him of his protection.

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!” In solemn wonder he cried out: “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!”

Genesis 28:16-17
Photo by Dr. Mai b. Dela Peña, Mt. Carmel, Israel, 2016.

Every time we are surprised by something or someone, it brings out the child in us, our wonderful sense of wonder, of believing, of trusting, of being open. Ultimately, of living again, of forging on in life amid all the darkness and uncertainties around us because we have that firm faith in a loving and merciful God who is also a Father to us.

See how this call for us to be childlike, of being surprised has become difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.

In this age of the social media all around us, nothing is hidden anymore. Everything is bared open even to the skin and bones we enjoy so much like in Tiktok as if we are a planet of sex-starved, foul-mouthed, filthy rich and wanna-be’s flaunting everything and anything that can be shown by the camera.

Unfortunately, the world of “macho” men and glamorous women we love to relish with delight in the secular and even religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone, leaving us more empty, more lost, and more alienated with one another and with our very selves.

Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

Many times in life when we feel tired and burned out, we go somewhere for some “me time”, of recharging. But, after some time, we feel lethargic again that we go out of town to find one’s self until we find nowhere else to go for retreats because the problem is actually within us.

Be like a child. Stop insisting of being an adult who knows what he/she is doing.

Set aside everything, especially your own agendas in life and open yourself to God and others to allow yourself to be surprised again, to regain that spark of rediscovering simple things without much thinking and reasoning, of just believing and be comforted that everything in this life is taken cared of by God. Like that magician in a children’s party.

May your week be filled with more surprises to gladden your heart and your spirit! God bless!

Believing, living like Mary

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2022
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><)))*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias at UP-Diliman, April 2022.
Glory and praise to you,
Father, for this great solemnity
of Mary being assumed body and
soul into heaven to remind us
of our glorious future too
which she now enjoys ahead of
us all because of her fidelity and 
total submission to your will
in every stage of her life;
teach us like Mary to believe (Lk.1:45)
and live your Word who became flesh
for us in Jesus Christ.

May this faith in you prompt
us to go in sharing Jesus
with his love and mercy, 
kindness and compassion
to those doubting you, O God,
because of too much pains
and sufferings, poverty and sickness;
in this age when people believe more
in the lies peddled by social media
and advertisements, may our lives
mirror like Mary your truth and 
greatness, dear Father with our
loving service to the needy;
in this time of so many tribulations
like this pandemic with the ever growing
materialism of people that has given rise
and spawned so many social evils in the
name of wealth, power and fame,
lead us to the desert of prayers and
purification (Rev. 12:6) so we may receive 
and respond properly to the graces and 
blessings you pour upon us lavishly,
primarily Jesus whom we receive
Body and Blood in the Eucharist,
thus making us like Mary herself,
the bearer of Jesus!
Loving Father,
so many people are suffering
these days, many are about
to give up, many are so lost
that their only hope is heaven,
sometimes wishing death
as a way out, not as a way
through the Cross of Christ
who is our way, truth and life;
show us the way,
lead us like Mary
 by believing your words
and putting them into practice
so that even now,
in the midst of sufferings and
darkness, we may enable
the people to experience and
see our true destiny in eternity
while here.
Right now.
Amen.
“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

The Visitation: Waking up from our “sleepwalking Christian existence”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2022
Romans 12:9-16   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><     Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 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. And how does this happen to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?”

Luke 1:39-43

It always happens with us, too, when we experience great privilege and honor be given us by others, most especially by God when like Elizabeth, we have that sense of awe and wonder to ask “who am I” to be accorded with such great honor. 

Many times we find ourselves asking God, “why me, Lord?” when given a great blessing in life (and also when experiencing extreme suffering and difficulty).  We believe there is somebody better and smarter than us, one who is more capable than us that we always wonder if God really has a plan for us. 

It is good to maintain such a sense of humility before God and others like Elizabeth, but sometimes, it can happen that after seeing clearly our role in the plan of God, we back out or worst, we pretend to be doing our part.  This is what the Orthodox Christian theologian Olivier-Maurice Clement, a friend of St. John Paul II who warned about “sleepwalking existence” wherein we pretend to be real disciples of Christ when we are actually dreaming.

As we come near to the closing of the Easter season with the approaching midyear on this last day of May after our recent elections, this Feast of the Visitation is the time for us to wake up from our sleepwalking existence, to face the discomforting realities of being disciples of Jesus Christ.

During our diocesan celebration of the World Communication Sunday, one of the more than 300 young people who attended our recollection asked our guest speaker Fr. Ilde Dimaano of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Social Communication how does he see our “failure in the Church in communicating the gospel with results of the recent elections?” I was so glad with Fr. Ilde’s answer when he clarified to the young people that we did not lost in the recent elections because we have all done so well in harnessing various forms of communications in spreading the gospel by educating the people. Without sounding partisan nor political, Fr. Ilde challenged our young parish communicators to review and study our communication efforts to find ways of getting better.

It is about time that we in the Church must accept that the recent elections show how we have disappointed the people again, of how we have been more aligned with the rich and powerful and our claims about “Church of the poor” are just poster signs than reality. 

Photo by author, Chapel of Basic Education Department, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 2021.

We in the Church should never be surprised at all that we are maligned and misunderstood because that was how Christ was treated during His time.  It is time for us clergy to wake up from our sleepwalking existence and get real with our vocation of truly shepherding the Lord’s flock, of finally putting an end to our adventures and forays into partisan politics. Like Mary, we priests must first of all immerse ourselves in the Word, Jesus Christ, which Vatican II has long stipulated us to do. See how Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” because she believed in the words spoken to her would be fulfilled. Instead of continuing to stir into flame the frustrations and disappointments of the people, like Mary we priests must “go in haste to the hill country” to reach out to everyone and inspire them to find God’s plans for us in the next six years.

Whether in good times or in bad, God comes to us in Christ Jesus. Do we truly carry him like Mary or are we just sleepwalking?

This Feast of the Visitation is a good celebration for us to accept the real hard stuffs of Jesus Christ like witnessing to his love and mercy among the poor and the disadvantaged, of bringing him to those forgotten by their families and the society like Mary sang in her Magnificat.

And like Elizabeth, let us doubt no more that despite our nothingness, we are worthy before God, that he has plans for us in bringing Christ Jesus in this world even if our mission may look so different from others yet so closely related in establishing his kingdom here on earth.

May the calls of St. Paul in our first reading awaken us from our “sleepwalking Christian existence” to be like Mary and Elizabeth in nurturing the seeds of God’s kingdom here on earth by truly walking the dusty and difficult roads in this life. 

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good, love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer.

Romans 12:9-12

These are the real hard stuff we need these days as we seem to be having some semblance of end of pandemic – it is time for us to visit like Mary the many Elizabeths who have been into “seclusion” during these past two years. So many feel so lost, trying to find directions at this time as they try to pick up the pieces of their lives wrecked by COVID-19.

God is visiting us daily because he loves us, he believes in us. Most of all, he comes to us in Jesus so that we can share him to more people to experience the Father’s love and mercy, kindness and blessings. Amen.

Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, Ein-Karem, Israel, May 2017.

Advent is being at home – with self, with others, and with God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Francis Xavier, Priest, 03 December 2021
Isaiah 29:17-24   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 9:27-31
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2020.
Your words today, O God,
are so Fatherly - comforting
and reassuring of your great
promises of redemption and
liberation from sin and miseries; 
your words are so "homey" too - 
help us this Season of Advent to find 
our way back home to you, O loving
God our Father!
Inasmuch as your words today
also speak of seeing and hearing,
make us feel at home first with
our very selves, to be at home with
who we really are, especially with our
past that no matter how dark or
painful life may have been, we are loved
most specially by you - no ifs, no buts.
Bring us home to you, Father, free from
any shame at who we really are!

Thus says the Lord God: but a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard shall be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and our of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale.

Isaiah 29:17-19, 22
I wonder, Lord, how so often
I feel one of those two blind men
who have followed you into your 
house - of how you first lead me into you,
into your presence, into your love 
and mercy and forgiveness before 
you make me see and hear again.
Thank you dear Jesus for always
coming to us even if so many times
we do not see nor notice you passing by
especially through others; grant us the 
zeal of St. Francis Xavier in reaching out
to others specially this season amid the
pandemic; may we try to see you among
one another as we listen to each one's
cries of pains and joys.
Most specially, let us keep our eyes
and ears and hearts open like St. Francis
Xavier who always believed in your
presence and providence even in the most
difficult and alienating situations
in life because he has always been
at home with you.  Amen.

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.