Being small, and blessed

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 08 September 2021
Micah 5:1-4     ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>     Matthew 1:18-23
“The Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary”, a 1305 painting by Renaissance artist Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy. The two babies are Mary: below is Mary upon birth wrapped in swaddling cloth and washed by attendants and then above being handed to St. Anne her mother. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

We rarely celebrate birthdays in our liturgy, except for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ on December 25 and of his precursor John the Baptist on June 24. Feasts of the saints are often based on the date of their death or when their remains were transferred for proper burial.

Today is different: it is the birth of the Mother of God, the Blessed Virgin Mary. And so we celebrate!

Nine months after her Immaculate Conception celebrated as a Solemnity on December 8, we now have the Feast of her Nativity which is lower in status or ranking of celebrations. Nonetheless, aside from Jesus and John the Baptist, her birth is still celebrated as it is the completion of her Immaculate Conception by St. Anne.

But in this time of the pandemic when everyone’s birthday celebration is kept at the simplest level unless you are a police general or a corrupt government official or a callous lawmaker, it is good to reflect anew on the significance of a birthday. Thanks a lot to Facebook in making every birthday so special, alerting everyone of someone’s birth every day.

Photo by author, December 2018.

"Every birthday is a small Christmas 
because with the birth of every person 
comes Jesus Christ."

In his 1995 Encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), the great St. John Paul II beautifully expressed that “Every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.”

What makes that so true with every birthday beginning with the Blessed Virgin Mary is God’s great mystery of becoming small, of being a little one. In the birth of his Son Jesus Christ, God revealed to us that true greatness is in becoming small, in being silent. Even insignificant.

This we find right in the place of birth of the Christ prophesied in the Old Testament.

“You, Bethlehem-Ephrathah too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.”

Micah 5:1

And if we go further, we find this true greatness of God in being small found also in the Mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary who came from the obscure town of Nazareth, the only place in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament. Recall how the Apostle Bartholomew (Nathanael) belittled the Lord’s hometown after being told by Philip that they have found the Messiah from Nazareth, saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (Jn.1:46).

Nazareth was totally unknown.

And so was Mary!

That is why it is so disappointing and sad when many Catholics unfortunately led by some priests have the misimpression of portraying Mary as a “beauty queen” with flawless skin and Western features when she is clearly Middle Eastern woman. Worst of all is the pomp and pageantries we have in the recent fads of processions and coronations.

Photo by author, La Niña Maria at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 07 September 2021.

How sad we have missed how the Blessed Virgin Mary as the model disciple of Jesus was the first to embody his teaching of being small like little children with her simplicity and humility so very well expressed in her 20th century apparitions in Fatima, Portugal and Banneux, Belgium.

Thanks in part to the COVID-19 pandemic that has given us so much time and opportunities to “reboot” or “reset” our priorities in every aspect of our lives, including in our religious devotions and faith itself.

With a total stop to those Marian “extravaganzas” that have been going out of control in recent years, the pandemic is now teaching us in this Feast of the Nativity of Mary of the need for us to rediscover the values of being small and simple, silent and hidden.

Enough with our imeldific celebrations even in our religious gatherings that have sometimes become egregious display of wealth and power.

Being simple and small like Mary, both as a child and as an adult, enable us to see again the value of life and of every person.


The more simple and true 
we are like Mary and Joseph, 
the more Jesus is seen 
and experienced in us!  

Aside from the lack of any account on the birth of Mary, we heard proclaimed today the birth of Jesus to teach us that truth expressed by St. John Paul II that in every person comes Jesus Christ. The more simple and true we are like Mary and Joseph, the more Jesus is seen and experienced in us!

That is why when we greet somebody a “happy birthday”, what we really mean telling him/her is “I love you, I thank you for making me who I am today.” Through one’s simplicity and littleness in Christ, we are transformed into better persons because we are able to have glimpse of God’s love and kindness.

Photo by author, December 2020.

The true joy of celebrating a birthday is not found in the externalities of gifts and parties and guests with all the fun that come along. In this time of the pandemic as we learn to celebrate simpler birthdays, we are reminded of life’s beginning and direction that is eternal life.

And how do we get there? Through death or dying – the one reality in life Jesus has taught us in his Cross which we have avoided that has suddenly become so common these days of the pandemic.

Like in the birth of Jesus Christ, we are reminded by every birthday that life is precious because it is so fragile – any infant and every person can be easily hurt and harmed, be sick and eventually die.

Like Mary and Joseph, the little Child born in Bethlehem asks us, even begs us to take care of him found in everyone among us. Let us be more loving and kind, understanding and caring, even merciful and forgiving with one another not only in this time of the pandemic.

Such is the wisdom of God in making life small and fragile so that we may care and value it because there lies also its greatness. The best birthday greeting we can express to the Blessed Mother Mary today is to start being small and simple like her to share Jesus with everyone. Amen.

Our birth from God

The Lord Is My Chef Noche Buena Recipe for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Mass at Christmas Eve, 24 December 2020
Isaiah 62:1-5  >><)))*>  Acts 13:16-17, 22-25  >><)))*>  Matthew 1:18-25 
Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

A blessed Merry Christmas to everyone!

One good thing with this ongoing pandemic is the retrieval and return to the basic meanings of our many traditions, rites and rituals in the Church, beginning with Lent and Easter last summer. The same thing is happening this Christmas Season when we have to accommodate more people amid our health protocols that we have revived the oft-neglected Vigil Mass of the Nativity of the Lord.

It is partly true that our December 25 celebration of Christ’s birth has something to do with the Christianization of some ancient pagan practices in Rome like the “sol invictus” or “invincible sun” introduced in 274 by Emperor Aurelius. When Emperor Constantine rose to power whose mother was Queen Helen or Sta. Elena of our Santacruzan fame, Christianity was finally accepted in Rome giving rise to the new religion and the Church. After the Peace of Constantine of 313, the feast of the Nativity of the Lord replaced the pagan celebration of the sun. Jesus is now seen as the fulfillment of the prophecy as “Sun of justice” (Mal. 3:20) while at the same time, we find in John 8:12 Christ calling himself as “the Light of the world”.

Eventually in Rome developed the three Masses of Christmas: the night Mass referred to as Midnight Mass even if it does not have to be at midnight adapted from the Christian tradition in Bethlehem of having night Mass on January 6, the Epiphany; during the fifth century, the Pope brought this to Rome after the Council of Ephesus but celebrated it on December 24 at the Church of St. Mary Major to stress the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ. On Christmas Day before dawn, the Pope would go to the Church of Anastasia to celebrate Mass for the anniversary of the Greek colony in Rome where the reading was taken from Luke about the visit of the shepherds to the newborn baby Jesus before celebrating the Mass at St. Peter’s where the reading was taken this time from the Gospel according to John.

Vatican II deemed it right that aside from these three traditional Masses of Christmas to add the Vigil Mass in the afternoon or early evening of the 24th as it has always been customary to have a vigil on the eve of every great feast “to prolong the day” like what we have on Saturday afternoon when we celebrate the Sunday Mass. Unfortunately, the Vigil Mass of Christmas is rarely celebrated due to practical reasons we have the three traditional Masses.

Now we have it again for practical purposes – the very same reason it used to be skipped before – to accommodate the expected large number of people going to Mass every Christmas while we observe the health protocols against COVID-19 that has been rapidly spreading again lately with the season.

It is perhaps providential that we need to celebrate anew this Vigil Mass of Christmas as a beautiful reminder to us not only of the birth of Jesus Christ but also of our own coming and birth. St. John Paul II said in 1995 that “every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ” (Evangelium Vitae).

A figurine of the Holy Family with St. Joseph taking Baby Jesus while the Blessed Virgin Mary sleeps.

Our genealogy in Jesus and birth from God

For the Vigil Mass, we heard again Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, tracing the roots of our Lord and Savior from David and Abraham, the two most prominent people of Old Testament: it was to David that God promised from whom will come the eternal king while it was to Abraham who was given the promise of fatherhood to all nations (https://lordmychef.com/2020/12/16/the-problem-with-beginning/).

Recall in our reflection last December 17 how Matthew structured the genealogy of Jesus as well as the history of Israel around David by having three sets of 14 generations from Abraham to David, then from his son and successor Solomon to the Babylonian exile, and from their return to Israel to Christ’s coming.

But here is the more interesting part of the genealogy and history of Jesus by Matthew: with God’s sending of His Son Jesus Christ, there came a shift of focus in the structure of peoples and history from being centered on the imperfect King David to the perfect true King of the universe, Jesus Christ!

Whereas the world had to wait to three sets of fourteen generations to experience redemption and freedom, our lives are now centered and structured on Jesus Christ our eternal King with everyday a new beginning to rise again to new life.

See how from Christ’s day of birth, history became “His story” when our lives are all seen in relation to Him in the way we reckon time as “AD” for Anno Domini as Year of the Lord or “BC” for Before Christ. Lately, historians have preferred to use the initials CE for Christian Era or BCE for Before Christian Era but it is all the same with Jesus as point reference of history and time.

What does it mean to us today as we celebrate the Lord’s birth?

Christmas has given us our new origin with faith in Jesus Christ as our true genealogy for we are all birth from God our Father!

Photo by author, the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, 2019.

We remain as God’s first love

“You shall be called by anew name pronounced by the mouth of the Lord. No more shall men call you “Forsaken”, or your land “Desolate”, but you shall be called “My Delight”, and your land “Espoused”. For the Lord delights in you, and makes your land his spouse. As a young man marries a virgin, your Builder shall marry you; And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride, so shall your God rejoice in you.”

Isaiah 62:2, 4-5

Our first reading tonight fits perfectly well Matthew’s story of how the birth of Jesus came about, telling us how the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream so he would marry her after explaining her pregnancy was due to the Holy Spirit.

Every year in Simbang Gabi we reflect on this mission of Joseph to give the name “Jesus” to the child to be born by Mary (https://lordmychef.com/2020/12/16/our-origin-and-mission-in-jesus-christ-2/).

The giving of name in the Bible always means authority that is why God tasked the first man He created to name every creature in paradise. The same is true with our parents giving us names or sweethearts calling us with other names exclusively theirs only like terms of endearment.

But in this part of Isaiah’s prophecy, God once again is demonstrating His all-powerful creativity to give a new breath of life to Israel His chosen people long held in captivity now set to go free, no longer called Forsaken or Desolate but now My Delight and the land Espoused.

In giving His people with new names, God reasserts His taking “possession” of not only Israel but of us all. The original meaning of the word “to espouse” as in “Espoused” found in Is. 62:4 can’t really be translated directly but very close “to possess” which is what a spouse means, the partner being possessed by the other. But possession here is not selfish; in fact, it is more of giving and sharing as indicated by the imagery of wedding, of unity that leads to joy. Recall also how Pope Francis explained in his recent letter “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart) what is to truly “possess” persons based on the virtue of chastity like St. Joseph (https://lordmychef.com/2020/12/17/loving-with-a-fathers-heart-like-st-joseph/).

Tonight on this Vigil Mass we are reminded how the Son of God Jesus Christ came to live among us to remind us and conclude as well God’s covenant with mankind that we are His first love, a love that never dies, a love He continues to renew in us daily.

Like Joseph who gave the name Jesus to the child born by Mary, may we keep in mind and heart that we are from God, that we are His, that we must continue to relate with Him no matter what is our status in life like those imperfect, weak and sinful men and women in Christ’s genealogy.

Let us rejoice this Christmas in our first love too, God, our one and only. Amen.

A blessed Christmas to you!

Photo by Ms. Jonna S. De Guzman, 06 December 2020.

Every birthday is a small Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 08 September 2020
Romans 8:28-30   >><)))*> + <*(((><<   Matthew 1:18-23
Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Praise and glory to you our great and loving God the Father! In sending us your beloved Son Jesus Christ, you have truly blessed us all in his coming. First among us is his Blessed Mother, Virgin Mary who has become our Mother too through Jesus Christ!

You never fail to surprise us, O God our Father, with your plans not only with the Virgin Mary and the Saints but most especially with each one of us in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ.

St. Andrew of Crete beautifully explained in his discourse the meaning of this Feast of Mary’s Birth:

The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God is the prelude, while the final act is the foreordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed, and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages.

Office of Readings, 08 September, Volume IV

How lovely that on this Feast of Mary’s nativity, the story we were told “is how the birth of Jesus came about” through her and St. Joseph her spouse with of a lot of working by the Holy Spirit.

Give us, O God, the faith and the strength to heed St. Paul’s teaching so that your plans are fulfilled in us like with Mother Mary:

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Help us realize this great honor you have given us in sharing with the Motherhood of Mary by reflecting on St. John Paul the Second’s teaching that “Every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.” (Evangelium Vitae)

Like Mary, make us share Jesus Christ with everyone and in this world that has turned its back from you.

Like Mary, may we remain standing at the foot of Jesus Christ’s Cross when everything is dark and uncertain for that is when his light shines brightest leading to Easter.

And still like Mary, may we be faithful in our prayer life, always waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill us with fire and strength to proclaim the gospel not only in words but most of all in deeds like her.

O most blessed Virgin Mary our Mother, pray for us to grow closer with your Son Jesus Christ! Amen.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Mt. Carmel, QC, 2019.

Panalangin sa karangalan ng kaarawan ng Mahal na Birheng Maria (at nating lahat!)

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-08 ng Setyembre 2020
Kapistahan ng Pagsilang ng Mahal na Birheng Maria
Roma 8:28-30   >><)))*> + <*(((><<   Mateo 1:18-23
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa aming Parokya, Pasko 2018.
O Diyos Amang mapagmahal sa amin, 
kay sarap isipin at namnamin pagdiriwang 
ng pagsilang ng Mahal na Birheng Maria
na Ina ni Hesus at Ina din namin.
Sa unang tingin marahil tatanungin
bakit ang kuwento sa ebanghelyo ay pagsilang ng Kristo?
Ngunit sa dakilang karunungan po Ninyo, O Diyos Ama
dito Mo ibinalot kagandahan at kabutihan
hindi lamang ng kapistahan 
kungdi ng katotohanang hatid nito:
Dumating si Hesus na Anak Mo sa pamamagitan 
ng dalawang mabubuting tao ayon sa plano at kalooban Mo: 
si Jose na mula sa angkan ni David 
na lahi ni Abraham
naging esposo ni Maria
na siyang Ina ng tinatawag naming Kristo.
Dahil dito, hinatian Mo kami O Diyos 
ng karangalan katulad ni Maria 
maging tagapaghatid ni Hesus sa mundong gulung-gulo.
Hayaan po ninyo na aming mapagtanto at mapagyaman
turo sa amin ng Iyong lingkod sa San Papa Juan Pablo Ikalawa:
bawat kaarawan ay munting Pasko
dahil sa pagsilang ng bawat tao
si Jesu-Kristo ang naparito!
Huwag nawa naming malimutan karangalang ito
kaya aming hiling sa aming masintahing Ina 
kami ay palaging ipanalangin,
ilapit kay Hesus na ating Panginoon
upang Siya ring maibahagi sa kapwa natin.
Amen.

Every birthday is a small Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist, 24 June 2020
Isaiah 49:1-6 ><)))*> Acts of the Apostle 13:22-26 ><)))*> Luke 1:57-66, 80
Photo by author, chapel beneath the Church of St. John the Baptist in Eim Karen, birthplace of our saint.

Every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.

St. John Paul II, “Evangelium Vitae” (1995)

Thank you very much, O God our loving Father for the gift of sharing in your life, for the grace of being alive. As we celebrate today the birth of the your Son’s precursor, St. John the Baptist, we remember with joy our own birthdays, our giftedness, your graciousness.

Birthday is always special because of the gift of life, and the gift of direction and purpose that everybody looks forward into the future, of what is in store for us here on earth like in the birth of St. John the Baptist.

All who heard these things took them to heart, saying, “What, then, will this child be?” For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.

Luke 1:66

With the coming of St. John the Baptist, you have taught us Lord that in life, what we must look forward to is to be one with your Son Jesus Christ.

May our lives be like of John, a precursor of Jesus, always pointing people to Jesus, leading people to him who is the Christ who takes away the sins of the world.

Photo by author, marker at Eim Karen, 2019.

Teach us to be strong in spirit, always creating a space for silence and hiddenness where we can meet you often, Lord, so that at the end of our life journey, you remain our reward like the prophets of old.

Though I thought I had toiled in vain, and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God.

Isaiah 49:4

That is the meaning of John – grace of God and graciousness of God.

It is a grace for us all to be alive, to share Jesus with others, to be a glimpse of himself and of his truth and kindness.

But, ultimately, your greatest grace for us all is to share in the Cross of Christ like John the Baptist for that is only when people realize you have come indeed in us. Amen.

Lent is always a gift of life

40 Shades of Lent, Friday, Week II, 22 March 2019
Genesis 37:3-4, 12-13, 17-28///Matthew 21:33-43, 45-46

Glory and praise to you O God our loving Father for the gift of life! As I celebrate my 54th birthday today which I welcomed last midnight, let me pray this to you: Lord God, you have given me with so much and I have given you with so little.

I have never been like Joseph a dreamer in the first reading. It was late in life – after I have met you or you have found me, Lord – when I started dreaming like Joseph, envisioning myself in the future with you my God.

You have entrusted me with so much and I have wasted so many of these in the past like those tenants in the parable of Jesus today. I feel so unworthy being your servant in those times I have refused to give your share of the many fruits of your vineyard by being more loving and merciful, more kind and humble with others. There were times I have rejected your Son Jesus Christ when I would insist on my own ways than your will.

Yet, despite all these, loving Father, you have always been gentle and generous with me. That is why I have stopped asking you for many things for myself because whatever I need, you always provide. Indeed, you have done so many for me that I never asked for that are “so wonderful in my eyes” (Mt. 21:42)!

Lord God, all I pray again on my 54th birthday today is that you help me to share more of myself and most especially more of YOU with others, that in every here and now, I may always say Yes to your Holy Will. Amen.

Thank you for your prayers for me too, my dear readers and followers. May God bless you always!

Sunrise at Lake Tiberias, the Holy Land, April 2017 photo by the author.