The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, 12 June 2021
2 Corithians 5:14-21 ><)))'> + <'(((>< Luke 2:41-51
Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for your immense love for us. Yesterday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus your Son who revealed to us the boundless love you have for us all as your beloved children.
But, such great is your love for us, God our Father, that today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of your Son Jesus Christ who gave her to us to be our Mother too!
All for your love for us!
What a wonderful twin celebrations of your love for us which must also be the main reason, the very essence of everything in our existence. St. Paul expressed it so well in today’s first reading, “The love of Christ urges us” (Caritas Christi urget nos, 2Cor.5:14).
Love is the very reason, the only reason why you have created us, why you have saved us, why you have given us your Son, why he had given himself for us.
Forgive us when we refuse to accept and recognize, and most of all, when we refuse to share your great love for us with others.
Teach us to be like the Blessed Virgin Mary whose heart is so inflamed with great love to you and her Son Jesus Christ.
Open our hearts to welcome you always, Lord.
Dwell in our hearts, reign in our hearts, dear Jesus, so that we may work for peace, for reconciliation in ourselves with the Father, with our family and friends, and with our countrymen. Help us to heed these beautiful words of St. Paul today:
So we are ambassadors for Christ,
as if God were appealing through us.
We implore you on behalf of Christ,
be reconciled to God.
For our sake
he made him to be sin who did not know sin,
so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.
(2 Corinthians 5:20-21)
Like Mary, along with Joseph, may we always find our way back to God our Father when they decided to go back to Jerusalem to look for the missing child Jesus. And once found, may we imitate Mary who “kept all these things in her heart” (Lk.2:51). Surely, you must have told her many other things, Lord, but most of all, it was YOU whom she must have kept and treasured in her heart!
And that is why on this most crucial part of our history as the only Christian nation for 500 years in this part of the world deeply caught in all kinds of crises especially moral decadence in governance despite our celebration of 123 years of Independence from foreign rule, help us to consecrate our nation to the Immaculate Heart of Mary of the Blessed Virgin Mary so that your love Jesus Christ may impel us to never waver in our efforts for true reconciliation, for real transformation to be truly a people dedicated to God our Father. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 31 May 2021
Romans 12:9-16 ><}}}'> + ><}}}'> + ><}}}'> Luke 1:39-56
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?"
In this time of the pandemic with threats of COVID-19 still prevalent, we feel exactly like St. Elizabeth, O God our loving Father, asking, “how does this happen that you O Lord, should come to us?” But that is how great and tender is your mercy for us, Father!
How great indeed is your goodness and mercy for us, Father, that your ways are always so different from our own ways like with the story of the cousins Elizabeth and Mary: ideally, it should have been the elder Elizabeth who visited Mary for she was bearing your Son Jesus Christ. That early, Jesus had shown us the nature of his mission here on earth, that he had come to serve and not to be served.
You know how much we miss one another so much these days, heavenly Father. We are getting tired of being kept at home and not able to visit or even receive visitors from family and friends for fear of getting sick.
Come and send us again Jesus your Son to visit us anew like what you did when Mary visited Elizabeth.
Increase our faith, let us believe like Mary that your words would be fulfilled as you have promised.
Keep our hope aglow like Elizabeth who, despite her old age and barrenness, joyfully received the gift of motherhood to the future John the Baptist.
Most of all, keep us humble and lowly before you, dear God, like Mary, hungry and thirsty for your words so we may have a space to receive and share Jesus with others, unlike the rich and powerful so filled with their pride and ego who could not welcome Jesus Christ’s coming.
Grant us courage, Lord, so we may heed and live out the words of St. Paul today so that like Mary and Elizabeth we may live in mutual love with one another, making you present among us. How unfortunate that we cannot see your coming to us in this time of crisis because we are so filled with arrogance and pride, of our lack of love and respect for one another.
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.
We pray for those who dwell on their evil and malicious thoughts in taking advantage of others especially the poor and powerless in this time of crisis. Please visit our political leaders, bring back their shame and sense of patriotism so they may think more of the suffering people than of their selfish motives and interests. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Sixth Week of Easter, Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima, 13 May 2021
Acts 1:12-14 ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-47
While this Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima was approaching, I was asking myself – consciously or unconsciously – “how many more Rosaries do we have to pray before this pandemic ends”?
Like you, I have been praying the Rosary primarily for the ending of this pandemic since it started last year. And it is not far-fetched that even before the Blessed Virgin Mary first appeared 104 years ago today at Fatima in Portugal, the people were most likely asking God in countless prayers and Rosaries too, to end the First World War that had started in 1914.
See some of the similarities of our time with that time 104 years ago when Mother Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima, asking them to remind the whole world to pray and be converted in her Son Jesus Christ:
1917 was in the first two decades of the new century (20th), just like ours (21st) when COVID-19 was first detected in 2019.
In 1917, the world witnessed the fiercest and bloodiest large-scale war to ever happened in human history, World War I until it was followed shortly by World War II; at the start of the 21st century, we witnessed the a different kind of deadly war that is “faceless” and “borderless” with the 9/11 attacks as we continue to live daily under threats by another wide scale war and ongoing pocket wars in various parts of the globe.
In 1917, Communist Russia was threatening the world of “spreading its errors”; since 2010 or even earlier, the only remaining “Communist” country of China has been flexing its muscles in Asia and Africa to assert its power and dominance in the world.
The Relevance of Fatima
Both in 1917 and 2021, God’s response to our cries and pleas is still the Our Lady of Fatima because then and now, mankind had never heeded Jesus Christ’s calls to return to him and be converted: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk.1:15).
It does not matter how many Rosaries we pray or how many Masses we celebrate or how often we go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The problem is not with God but with us who until now refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of this pandemic.
Whatever solution we eventually find in ending COVID-19, most likely another pandemic or worldwide problem could occur if we continue to refuse in respecting life and every person as an image and likeness of God. Recall that when World War I ended in 1918 as promised by our Lady of Fatima, that same year started the Spanish flu pandemic that claimed about 50-M lives worldwide. Then in 1939, World War II started.
The Spanish flu and the World War II were not punishments from God; he does not punish because “God is love”, nothing evil and bad can come from him. Those things happened after the Fatima apparitions because of man’s refusal to heed Mary’s calls for prayers and conversion of peoples which is happening again in our own time.
Our Lady of Fatima consistently reminds us since 1917 her Son Jesus Christ’s teaching of the centrality of God in our lives through prayers and our daily conversion through humility and being like a child, trusting God completely like her.
More than a century ago, the Lord through his Mother, has been telling us the key to lasting peace in the world and in our very lives lies in our daily conversion, in our conformity to his life intimately united in the Father like the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is a life of daily fiat – of faith in God, of letting his will be done in us! The Holy Rosary and the Sacraments are the means so we may bear fruits of love and holiness in our faith in God like Mary.
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? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
For better and for worst, COVID-19 had truly changed our lives, teaching us that true blessedness is not found in money and things, nor in popularity and influence or other things that have become the benchmarks of everything that is good in this life.
In less than a year when everything stood still as COVID-19 ravaged earth with so many deaths, the pandemic had shown us what our Lady of Fatima has always been telling us since 1917: go back to God our Father through our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Eucharist and Sacrament of Reconciliation.
Mary believed and lived her faith in God. She was the first to receive the Good News of Jesus Christ by setting aside all her plans in life, her wedding to St. Joseph, of what people would say if found pregnant before they were actually married, and many other things to consider.
She abandoned herself to God completely that immediately after Gabriel had left her, she went in haste to visit her cousin Elizabeth in the hills of Judea not to help her nor verify her being pregnant but to share with her the Good News she had received (Jesus Christ) to show that God’s plan for them are closely linked even with their sons to be born with John being the forerunner of Jesus.
Thus, Mary became the perfect image and model of discipleship in Christ that at the start of his public ministry, she was the first to believe in his saving work when she interceded at a wedding in Cana.
Mary was also the first to believe in Christ’s Resurrection that she remained standing at the foot of his Cross on Good Friday. Last but not least as we have heard in our first reading today, Mary was the first to believe in the coming of the Holy Spirit that she accompanied the Apostles praying at Jerusalem on Pentecost day.
The Challenge of Fatima in our time
Like Mary who appeared at Fatima in Portugal 104 years ago today, may we grow deeper in our faith in God by believing more in him than believing in the world or with our very selves.
In this time of COVID-19, may we bring unity to our family and community, church and nation, so that like the Blessed Mother we may help in strengthening the faith of one another, in believing in God by submitting ourselves to his holy will.
May we not waste time to avert another catastrophe – not as a punishment from God who does not punish – that when rooted can always be traced back to our selfishness and pride, lack of concern for others, and for playing gods who claim to know everything.
These were some of the reasons Mary appeared at Fatima in 1917 to bring us back to God through his Son Jesus Christ. After all the pains and losses we have gone through in this time of COVID-19, have we not still learned the need to be simple and humble?
Like Mary, let us believe more in God by being kind and charitable with one another so that sooner, we may finally end this pandemic. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2021
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 + Hebrews 10:4-10 + Luke 1:26-38
Praise and glory to you, O God our Father on this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ! Thank you very much in fulfilling your promise, in sending us the perfect offering we can have to be one with you again.
Brothers and sisters: It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.’” By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:4-7, 10
In his becoming human like us, your Son Jesus Christ taught us the value and beauty of obedience to you, O God, even unto death on the cross to restore our relationships with you and with one another destroyed by sin.
Teach us, O God, as we celebrate the Annunciation of the Lord, that more than the many things we expect in this life like our plans and dreams are the relationships and ties that bind us together as family and friends, as a nation and your people.
Give us the grace to offer our very selves, to let go of our many plans and agenda in life like the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as her most chaste husband St. Joseph to always say “yes” to your words, to your calls and invitations.
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.
May we be like Mary giving flesh to your Word Jesus Christ, bringing his peace and mercy to this world so wounded by our many divisions and self-interests even in the midst of a pandemic. Amen.
40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, 25 March 2021
Isaiah 7:10-14, 8:10 + Hebrews 10:4-10 + Luke 1:26-38
Last Monday I celebrated my 56th birthday in quarantine after having a close contact with a person with COVID-19. The health officers were both smiling in disbelief as they took my swab test that morning after finding out after my interview it was indeed my birthday.
Between that morning and its eve – in fact since Saturday when I went on quarantine – I felt like in another scene of the Annunciation as I awaited the “good news” with my whole world standing still in animated suspension.
Earlier that morning, I celebrated Mass in my room when I looked back to my birthday last year. It was a Sunday, the first week of the lockdown when public Masses were suspended. After celebrating the Mass alone in our Parish church, I borrowed a truck and mounted the Blessed Sacrament at the back and went around our parish that afternoon to bless the people who knelt on the road with some were crying.
This year, I felt the Lord wanted me to celebrate my birthday in quarantine to be alone with him again to realize the rich meaning of this Solemnity in relation with our lives, especially with me as his priest.
Brothers and sisters: It is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats take away sins. For this reason, When Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; in holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.'” By this “will,” we have been consecrated through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:4-7, 10
The mystery of Christ’s coming
Notice that in Mass today at the proclamation of the Creed, we are asked to genuflect at the words “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary” to remind us that the Incarnation of the Son of God is the fundamental mystery of our faith which the Church has always proclaimed since the beginning.
This is the gist of our short but rich reflections by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews of how Jesus truly became human born by the Blessed Virgin Mary in the power of the Holy Spirit without losing any of his divinity in the process in order to save us and make us new again before God our Father.
In his reflection, the author of the Letter mentions how the Old Testament worship was more symbolic and a preparation to the perfect offering made by Jesus on the cross.
In the Old Testament, priests offered animals for atonement of sins with the blood symbolizing life. They offered three animals: first for their sins so they may be cleaned before God in making the sacrifices for the people for whom the second animal stood for. The third animal was usually a goat to cover all the other sins of the world from which we got “scapegoat” as term for one who takes all the blame.
Jesus Christ came to perfect the temple worship in his very body when he told the Pharisees and scribes after cleansing the temple, “Destroy this temple and in a three days I will raise again” (Jn.2:19).
By dying on the cross, Jesus fulfilled his words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well that someday, people would no longer worship in just one place because through his “hour” of glory – his crucifixion – people will be able to “truly worship the Father in Spirit and truth” (Jn.4:23).
On the cross, Jesus made himself the perfect sacrifice to God by atoning for our sins. The word atonement was coined by a Protestant translator of the bible to convey the idea of salvation as being one again with the Father, or “at-one-ment”.
Following the reflection by the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, we find that the very coming of Christ announced by the angel to Mary was in fact directed toward this paschal sacrifice of Jesus.
In the gospel today we have seen the angel telling Mary to name her child “Jesus” that means “God is my savior”. The angel was more explicit in the Annunciation to Joseph who was instructed, “you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt.1:21).
It was from this celebration of the Annunciation of Christ’s birth that we have the tradition of praying the Angelus every 6am, 12noon and 6pm to make our day holy, reminding us of this great mystery of the Incarnation of Jesus who became both “the gift and the giver” when he offered himself on the cross for us which we remember and make present in every celebration of the Mass.
The life of obedience in Christ
From that beautiful story of the Annunciation of Lord we find how in the coming of Jesus Christ from the very start – from heaven to its coming on earth to Mary’s virginal conception at Nazareth – the mystery of his Incarnation has always been characterized by obedience.
In being obedient to the Father, Jesus consecrated us through him in offering his body once and for all that opened for us an avenue to a life of holiness through obedience to God. And the first to have this distinction is his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
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.
Next to Mary is her husband, St. Joseph whose Solemnity we celebrated last week. His “yes” to following the angel’s instruction upon waking up from his dream echoed the Blessed Mother’s obedience to God’s plan and will for everyone through Jesus Christ.
Here we find Mary and Joseph, two righteous people who allowed themselves to be instruments in the fulfillment of the divine plan in Jesus Christ, relying more in the power of God, believing in his words spoken by the angel to them.
On this Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, we are challenged and invited to be open and obedient to God, to his words we hear proclaimed in the celebration of the Mass and in our personal prayers.
Jesus is the word who became flesh and dwelled among us, present among us because of the obedience and faith of Mary and Joseph.
It is always very tempting to be like King Ahaz in the first reading, when we rely more in ourselves, in our wisdom and intelligence, expertise and experience that we sometimes feel it no longer needed to bother God at all for directions especially with “earthly” things and concerns like the economy or defense of the country.
This is the saddest part with COVID-19: a year after it started and wreaked havoc on this planet, we still continue to consider it as a medical and social issue, refusing to see its spiritual meaning.
This pandemic is an annunciation moment when God is telling us something very important for our salvation like with Mary over 2000 years ago.
God has been sending us messengers since the start of this crisis to welcome his Word, Jesus Christ so that he can work in us to bring us back to the Father and with one another through our loving service especially with the weak and most needy.
It is easy for God to send us solutions right away to end this pandemic. In fact, he had blessed us with at least six vaccines that took only a year to develop unlike the normal course of 3-5 years.
But vaccines will not entirely solve and end this pandemic. This we can see right in our country where spas and gyms and malls are seen as more essential than religious gatherings. Its worst part is how we have modern King Ahaz so confident with themselves in addressing the issues from the pandemic. Incidentally, the main sin and mistake by King Ahaz during the time of Isaiah was his aligning himself with the superpower Assyria that eventually conquered Israel – something so similar with our dealings and reliance with China, the origin of this virus and pandemic!
How sad at how this government pinned all its hopes last year in the discovery of vaccines without working hard in other aspects of mitigating the effects of the pandemic when now that there are vaccines available, it is still at a loss in making any progress in the vaccination program especially with those most vulnerable like the medical frontliners who are doing a life of offering like Jesus Christ.
Early this year, we had our major revamp in our parish assignments in almost nine years. It was an Annunciation event for us priests as it directed us to new challenges in the ministry to continue proclaiming the mystery of Incarnation.
I was assigned as chaplain of Our Lady of Fatima University (OLFU) and Fatima University and Medical Center (FUMC). At first, I was afraid like Mary in going to a new ministry at the forefront of facing the pandemic. But like Mary, I gave my fiat to God, joyfully coming to my assignment with so many plans and dreams.
And just when I was starting to heat up in my ministry, I was suddenly sent on a quarantine. That was when I realized the meaning of this Annunciation of the Lord to me: becoming like the Body of Christ to be offered too for many.
As I heard news of more people including friends and relatives getting COVID-19, I promised God in my prayers during my “quarantined” birthday that whatever may be the result of my swab test, I will still serve him with same enthusiasm in my previous assignments.
Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we say yes to God everyday, relying more than ever in our relationships with him and with others in Christ than in the hopes of things getting better; should things get worst like Jesus dying on the Cross, like Mary, may we hold only on God’s loving mercy and presence in this world marred by sin. And pandemic. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, 11 February 2021
Thursday, Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick
Isaiah 66:10-14 >><)))*> + <*(((><< John 2:1-11
Praise and glory to you, dearest God our Father through your Son Jesus Christ who gave us his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother too as we celebrate today the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick.
From the beginning since Jesus Christ began his ministry to our modern time, Mary has always been with him showing us your great signs of presence, of generosity, and of life first anticipated at the wedding feast at Cana.
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the wedding. when the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servers, “Do whatever he tells you.”
I cannot help but rejoice at how our evangelist situated the first sign performed by Jesus which is “on the third day”, reminding us of Easter Sunday, the fullness of your coming to us, the fullness of our healing and salvation, the third day after the “hour” of the Lord.
Both at Cana and at Lourdes there was water, the sign of your life and in both instances, Mary was present interceding for our benefit.
At Cana, water became an excellent wine to prefigure the Lord’s Supper we celebrate each day in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as a foretaste of our promised glory in heaven while at Lourdes, water transformed the sick who were healed after they have come to bathe at its springs.
Through the example of faith by Mother Mary, our human efforts now encounter the gift of God in Jesus to create the feast of joy of communion, of healing, of fulfillment that can only be made possible by God’s presence and his gift of self in Christ.
At Cana and on to Lourdes and wherever we may be, every day is God’s coming, the “hour” of Jesus in every “here” and “now” when we experience the sign of God’s overflowing generosity to us all who are so tired and exhausted in this life especially the sick in this time of the corona pandemic.
Thank, loving God our Father in fulfilling your promise through the prophet Isaiah that you would send us a mother who shall comfort us in moments of sickness and darkness.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes help us get through these tough times and lead us closer to Jesus her Son who is our true Peace and Joy by doing whatever he tells us like the servants at Cana. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 January 2021
Every road trip is filled with music. A lot of music. In fact, it is not a road trip without any kind of music! As I was telling you, this road trip was inspired by that line from Steely Dan’s Kid Charlemagne, “Is there gas in the car?”
As we drove to Tanay from Baras Church, our playlist had Rod Stewart singing one of our generation’s staple music so “relate much” with our own experiences…
I didn’t know what day it was When you walked into the room I said, “Hello” unnoticed You said goodbye too soon
Breezing through the clientele Spinning yarns that were so lyrical I really must confess right here The attraction was purely physical (oh, yeah)
Okay. Suspend your judgments for now and let me say too that when men get together whether on a road trip or not, surely topic would always be on women and past relationships.
Always. Even with priests like me who had studied and worked for a long time “outside” the seminary. There is always that somebody in the group who would pop up with that question “have you had a girlfriend before”?
Sorry… you have to go with me in an actual road trip to hear my stories while I am obliged with the “seal of confession” of sorts to keep my lips zipped with Dindo’s stories as we talked about our past relationships while singing with Rod Stewart on our way to Tanay. One thing for sure, though, like real gentlemen, when we talked about women, it was very true, so divine, like those lines …
My love for you is immeasurable My respect for you immense You’re ageless, timeless, lace and fineness You’re beauty and elegance
You’re a rhapsody, a comedy You’re a symphony and a play You’re every love song ever written But honey, what do you see in me?
You’re in my heart, you’re in my soul You’ll be my breath should I grow old You are my lover, you’re my best friend You’re in my soul
The way we relate with women
indicates how we relate with God.
Twenty years ago, I have read from one of the writings by Papal Preacher Raniero Cardinal de Cantalamessa how an American Dominican exegete had put forward that the way we relate with women mirrors our way of relating with God.
That is very true.
Women are God’s loveliest creations that without them, we men would never be complete. Some even claim that women must be the one closest to God in appearance, more perfect than us men that is why she was created last.
What is amazing again with this road trip is how our second stop at the Tanay Church confirmed our discussions of women.
First, it was a woman who directed us to the main entrance to the church because its gate was partly hidden by some obstructions at that time from the main road. Then, inside the church, three women catechists warmly welcomed us near its magnificent altar.
And when I recognized its Patron is St. Ildephonse of Toledo in Spain, I realized again how this road trip “was taking us instead of us taking the trip” on that rainy Thursday, January 07, 2021.
When I was ordained deacon in 1997, I was assigned to help the late Fr. Johann Sebastian in a parish at Pinaod, San Ildefonso town in Bulacan. Of course, San Ildefonso is St. Ildephonse…
Next, Fr. Johann was a resident of San Ildefonso whose house was across the Parish Church where we used to watch the procession during his feast on January 23.
Most of all, it was from Fr. Johann that I learned so much about St. Ildephonse who had lived around the years 607-667 in Toledo, Spain that used to be the main seat of the Church in Spain before Madrid. Outside Fr. Johann’s room used to be displayed a huge painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary appearing to St. Ildephonse while giving him heavenly vestments (chasuble) as gifts for his efforts in propagating devotions to her. In fact, St. Ildephonse was one of the early bishops who had written about the Immaculate Conception of Mary that was finally declared a dogma of the Church in 1854.
Here we are in the beautiful church of Tanay recently declared by the National Museum of the Philippines as a “National Cultural Treasure” under the patronage of St. Ildephonse, truly a holy and a gentleman with a great devotion to the Mother of God that mirrored his fidelity in serving God his Master and Lord!
Shortly after praying and exchanging stories with the three catechists, the Parish Priest, Msgr. Rigoberto de Guzman came to meet and formally welcomed us in his church. Actually, we were hesitant to meet Msgr. Rigs as we did not want to disturb him but we were told that he usually welcomed pilgrims to their parish.
Likewise, I was not so sure if he could still recall me since we have met only twice ten years ago when he was the Rector of the Antipolo Cathedral during the time of Bishop Gabby Reyes while I was with Radio Veritas. And, lo and behold — Msgr. Rigs still knew me, even telling me how he had come across some of my reflections in the Sabbath publication!
A very soft spoken and kind-hearted man of God, Msgr. Rigs thanked me on behalf of our diocese in forming many of their priests who have graduated from our Major Seminary. As a token of his appreciation especially after learning that I teach and serve as a spiritual director in our major seminary, he gave me a framed image of Our Lady of the Poor and Suffering known also as Our Lady of Banneux in Belgium where she appeared eleven times to an 11-year old girl in 1933.
Oh my God!
First, it was St. Joseph who greeted us at Baras; now, we have my second most favorite image of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Banneux welcoming us in Tanay! As I thanked Msgr. Rigs for his gift, he led me to the side of their church where stood an exact replica of the Virgin of Banneux — something we have overlooked earlier due to the rains!
At that very moment, I felt the Blessed Mother’s comforting assurance of love and guidance, especially with my new assignment as chaplain of the Our Lady of Fatima University and Medical Center effective February 16, 2021. What a pleasant morning talking about the women in our lives now capped with the most wonderful woman of all, our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The first time I learned about Our Lady of Banneux was when I met the sisters in charge of the Boys’ Town and Girls’ Town in Cavite way back in 2007 after learning about the works of their founder, the Venerable Fr. Al Schwartz, an American priest who worked here among the poorest of the poor. He was a devotee of the Our Lady of Banneux who is very much like the Our Lady of Fatima, so lovely and very simple. Both appeared in the early 20th century in Europe to show Mary’s oneness with humanity going through so many sufferings and afflictions up to this age. It is something many devotees in our diocese in Bulacan seem to be missing with their pomp and pageantry in crowning every image of the Blessed Virgin to be found, even in a bodega or a patio!
That is the beauty and charm of the two old churches we have visited in Baras and Tanay: both are simply elegant, not extravagant nor loud where one can have time with God and the sacred.
After the rains have stopped, Msgr. Rigs prayed over us and blessed us as we left for Pililla while listening this time to Hall and Oates. More rock and roll reflections in our final installment. See ya!
The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul
Friday, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, 01 January 2021
Number 6:22-27 >><)))*> Galatians >><)))*> Luke 2:16-21
A blessed Merry Christmas to you all!
Please, continue greeting one another with a “Merry Christmas” than with “Happy New Year” because Christmas is not over yet; besides, we Catholics celebrated our new year last November 29, the first Sunday of Advent. Most of all, it is so unfair to Jesus that we easily forget Him and think more of the new year! What happened to those Christmas countdowns that began in September only to stop greeting “Merry Christmas” after eight days?
Most of all, contrary to what most priests are erroneously saying today, our Mass is not for the new year but for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. Although the sacramentary (our book for the celebration of Mass) has prayers for the Mass on new year, it also says – written in red ink to stress this point – that one cannot celebrate the Mass for new year on January first because the proper celebration on this date is the Motherhood of Mary.
The “Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God” used to be celebrated on October 11 but during the Second Vatican Council, the Fathers deemed it more right and proper to celebrate every January first which is the eighth day called octave of Christmas. This solemnity also abolished the feasts of the Circumcision of Our Lord (January 1) and the Holy Name of Jesus (Sunday between January 1 and 8, or January 2).
Nonetheless, as a further background to our liturgy, today’s celebration is also the oldest feast in honor of Mary, dating back to year 431 after the Council of Ephesus when the Church declared Mary as the Mother of God following heresies claiming Jesus was not born divine but only human, that he assumed his divinity later in life as he matured. It was during that Council of Ephesus when the Church Fathers insisted that when Mary conceived Jesus in her womb, His divinity was not diminished nor lost. Hence, Mary shall be called the Mother of God Jesus Christ who is true God and true human, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity.
While the whole world is celebrating in revelry with all the pagan practices of fireworks and noise that sadly include many Christians, we Catholics on this first day of the new year celebrate Mary the Mother of God as our model disciple in journeying through life this 2021 in Jesus Christ.
Beginning anew in Jesus like Mary
It has been more than 24 hours since my iPhone “crashed” that I now merely rely on Messenger for communications. But, it is a wonderful feeling too! Nothing bothering me so I can rest fully today.
Yes, I am a “dinosaur” when it comes to these tech things and gadgets. When I got this phone in 2018, I never bothered to check its “storage capacity”, thinking since it is a high-end phone, it must be very, very good.
Then came the pandemic last year when I had to use it for our daily online Mass until it showed signs of problems two weeks ago when I found out we have used all its 32 GB capacity.
But, as I learned all those things about storage capacity of cellphones and computers, I remembered the Blessed Virgin Mary in our gospel today.
The shepherds went in haste to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds. And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
How beautiful to hear those words of the evangelist, “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.”
Yes, better than any cellphone and computer is the human heart with unlimited storage capacities for all memories, data and images of life! How sad we have been keeping all those wonderful events in our lives inside this tiny gadgets that eventually would be corrupted by bugs or even hacked.
But we have this heart – the core of our very being where we process all those memories and images of everything we are going through and have gone through.
We celebrate today this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God to remind us in keeping the Christmas story alive through the new year by imitating the Blessed Mother in treasuring and reflecting all our experiences – good and bad – in 2020!
Imagine that image of Jesus born in a manger: it must be so dark, even filthy and smelly – maybe like how our lives have been last year. But, do not forget, there was Jesus present with us in the darkness and dirt and foul smell of 2020.
If life has been so good and kind to you last year, reflect on those memories, find Jesus in those joy like the shepherds and share the good news and blessings you have received!
I love that part Mary “treasured” – as something precious – all those things said by the shepherds, reflecting them in her heart. Luke would always present Mary keeping everything in her heart to reflect them especially when things and events were beyond her understanding.
The same is true with life. Sometimes, we just cannot comprehend the many things that have happened in 2020.
Instead of blaming the year 2020 for all the negative things that have have happened, Mary shows us the way by looking into our selves, into our hearts to “process” all those experiences, find their meaning, and most of all, what God is trying to tell us. That is Christmas – Jesus became human like us to be with us specially in our sufferings and trials in life. Problem is, we are so filled with ourselves as our cellphones and other gadgets would show – selfies and so many posts most often done for the sake of “likes” and “followers”.
Do we still have memories? Do we still remember? Or, should the question be, do we still feel at all?
Whenever I see people with arms stretched looking through their cellphones in so many events, I pity them because they fail to feel and savor the moment, living in a “mediated” world, not grounded and detached from the realities of life. This is perhaps the reason why despite the affluence of life today, more people are lost, alone, alienated, and empty.
There are two local commercials that I have always loved and they both featured grandparents having Alzheimer’s.
First is McDonald’s about ten or 15 years ago of a lolo slicing into half his cheeseburger, saying, “ito para sa paborito kong apo, si Karen” (this is for my favorite grandchild, Karen).
Second is the Ayala Malls’ “Wishing Tree” in 2019 where the grandmother, so sad and haggard looking suddenly smiled again with her face lighting up in joy when she saw the old CCTV footages of her trips to the Mall with her apo in the past.
Both commercials show how big is the storage capacity of our hearts to keep our beautiful memories with loved ones even if the memories in our brain “crash”.
How amazing that the heart remains intact with its stored memories of events and persons who have loved us – and even hurt us. That is how big is our heart as a storage of memories that must be treasured, processed, and reflected upon like what Mary did to deepen our faith, widen our perspectives and most of all, find Jesus Christ.
See my dear Reader how at the end of the gospel on the eighth day Mary’s child was given with the name “Jesus” – the only thing she and Joseph were certain of about their child. The same is so true with us on this day as we begin 2021: we do not know what will happen to us. Nothing is really so certain, not even having that COVID-19 vaccine, legally speaking.
Like Mary and Joseph, all we have for sure is Jesus, the only One we must trust and follow, the only One we must nurture and share so that His face may shine upon us (Num.6:25) and lead us to eternal life as heirs to the kingdom of heaven as children of the Father (Gal.4:7).
Have a blessed Merry Christmas this new year, and may the Lord bless you and keep you! Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-7 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week IV, 22 December 2020
1 Samuel 1:24-28 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 1:46-56
When I was about to enter the high school seminary, an aunt would always comment on our way to school how I would become a priest when I am a big fan of rock and roll music. You know, the usual stuff ever since with old folks about rock music as evil and everything…
Looking back, I just imagine what if I had told her and my other relatives the meaning of Steely Dan that is my most favorite band? Most likely they would have fainted! And I would tell tell them too that I am the only priest who had played Stairway to Heaven in Radio Veritas where I used to co-anchor a show, playing only good, old rock n’ roll to the delight of many listeners despite protests from management.
Lately I have been blogging every week linking secular music with the Sunday gospel that had enabled me to reach new and younger generations I hope had rediscovered Jesus in the music I had offered them.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had said that “music is the food of the soul” and it is very true for it transcends cultures and languages that even if you do not understand the lyrics, music always touches the soul.
Meanwhile, the great English playwright William Shakespeare is said to tell his audience at the start of his plays that “If music be the food of love, play on.” That’s very beatiful. Like love, music is best served with another person; when we sing, it is always to pour our hearts out. We let others hear our song even if we sing alone because that is what music is all about – it is meant to be shared.
This is the reason why Mary sang her Magnificat during her Visitation of Elizabeth, not by herself in Nazareth after the angel had left after announcing to her the birth of Jesus.
Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Mary praised and thanked God with her “Magnificat”
Recall how Elizabeth praised Mary twice and her baby Jesus in the womb once yesterday at the Visitation. Naturally for us, when we are praised we always return it by praising too whoever spoke nicely of us.
But that was not the case with Mary. She took the occasion to praise and thank God for all His goodness and salvific work in her and in Elizabeth. Like Hanna in the first reading and responsorial psalm today who sang praises to God in giving her a son in the prophet Samuel, Mary while filled with the Holy Spirit sang this canticle, narrating how God worked in her and through her.
Our lives is a song of thanksgiving always to God who never stops doing great things for us not to make us famous but to bring His divine will into fulfillment. Mary affirmed this when she admitted her own blessedness, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”
Yesterday we have reflected that true blessedness is to trust in God. Likewise, Mary added another dimension in what is to be blessed before God and that is being His servant, His slave or in her very words to the angel at the annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”
A handmaid is the feminine form of “slave” but more than being poetic in her identification as a female slave of God, Mary through her Magnificat showed us a glimpse of the lives of the early Christians at that time who were considered “weird” and “odd”, even “bizarre” among the Roman pagans who could not understand why they worshipped Jesus Christ they saw as “a crucified criminal”.
Worst of all for the pagans, they could not understand why the early Christians who were mostly poor would give themselves to Jesus in loving service to others like the sick, the elderly, the hungry, widows and orphans and those living in the margins.
In fact, the Roman historian Pliny recorded in his writings how during the persecution the emperor’s soldiers rounded up Christians in every town and city by looking for anybody doing good, serving the poor and needy! It is something to think about for us Christians today: Would any one of us be arrested because we are doing something good like serving the less fortunate?
Mary, the first model disciple, the first to live out the Gospel
In singing her blessedness by God, Mary had assumed her being the spokeswoman of the early Christians, the poor ones or anawim of Israel who were truly poor materially, trusting entirely on God.
Here lies her challenge to us who love to sing her Magnificat: do we allow God to work in us His salvation?
“He has mercy on those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he remembered his promise of mercy…”
Again, we find many similarities in the Mary’s Magnificat and Hanna’s song we heard in the responsorial psalm. But, more than that is the striking similarity of Magnificat with the Beatitudes to be preached by Jesus according to Luke.
In Matthew’s gospel, there are eight Beatitudes preached by Jesus at his sermon on the mount; Luke narrated it differently by citing only four Beatitudes he paired with four woes that Jesus preached in His sermon on the plain (this is due to the different audience Luke and Matthew addressed):
Blessed are you who are poor… Blessed are you who are now hungry… Blessed are you who are now weeping… Blessed are you when people hate you…
Woe to you who are rich… Woe to you who are filled… Woe to you who laugh now… Woe to you when all speak well of you…
Magnificat is the Gospel in a nutshell. See the works of God cited by Mary perfectly jibing with the Beatitudes of Jesus. Here we find again how Luke has shown us the consistency of Mary as a disciple of her Son Jesus Christ by witnessing to His teachings, living them out for which she was crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.
This is the reason why I love so much the image of Fatima and of Banneux known as Lady of the Poor with Mary portrayed as so simple yet so lovely and beautiful. What a scandal for the Church in our time with all those lavish processions and coronations of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the poor are left out, becoming more of a social function among the rich and famous. What a shame most especially amid the pandemic when some parishes can spend so much fortune in these rituals that look more as a show which the Blessed Virgin would definitely disapprove. Keep in mind how Mary identified herself as “handmaid of the Lord” — do away all those pomp and pageantries please!
Every night, we priests and the religious sing the Magnificat in our Evening prayers to examine ourselves if we have lived out the Gospel message of the Lord, if we have been poor and hungry, if we have allowed ourselves to be used by God to effect His salvation among the suffering.
The same is true with every disciple of Jesus: when we sing the Magnificat or “Ang Puso ko’y nagpupuri”, we have to do some soul searching how consistent we have been as a disciple of the Lord like His Mother Mary.
How sad late yesterday when some people -whether they are trolls or not – had come out expressing support to that cop who brutally shot and killed Sonya Gregorio and her son Anton in their home in Paniqui, Tarlac Sunday afternoon.
How can some people be not affected and even defend or belittle such unspeakable crime of a man supposed to uphold the law, protect civilians?
What had gone wrong with us as the only Christian nation in this part of the world?
Can we sing “Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri sa Panginoon, nagagalak ang aking espiritu, sa aking Tagapagligtas” while we rejoice and defend all forms of brutalities and violence around us?
As we strongly condemn this unspeakable crime and demand justice for Sonya and Anton, let us work hard and pray hardest to imitate Mary to effect change in the society we live in and create by being a voice of the poor and vessel of God’s salvation. Amen.
The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-6 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Advent Week IV, 21 December 2020
Zephaniah 3:14-18 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 1:39-45
The Bible rarely tells us conversations between women, except for the Book of Ruth which records to us the story of two women, Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth who became the grandmother of King David, and therefore, a kin of our Lord Jesus Christ.
But more rare in the Bible are conversations between two pregnant women, mostly conversations even fights among pregnant mothers and their midwives or rival wives found in the Old Testament. It is therefore so unique is Luke’s account of the Visitation when Mary meets Elizabeth. There must be something so significant for Luke – and for us most especially – in this encounter and exchange.
Mary set out in those days 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, blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Women as vessels of God’s blessings
Recall Matthew’s genealogy dominated by the male figures as it was the prevailing culture at that time when women were not really given much attention. But to show the immense power and freedom of God, Matthew mentioned five women who made the coming of Jesus Christ possible.
Most of the women were not really that good whom we would rather describe as a problematique: Tamar pretended to be a prostitute to entice her father-in-law Judah to get her pregnant while Rahab was a real prostitute (a mamasan in fact) at Jericho who helped the spies sent by Joshua before attacking that ancient city; Ruth was a foreigner, not purely Jewish while Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah whom David had killed after she got pregnant with Solomon. And Mary, the wife of Joseph, was found pregnant while still a virgin! (That is what I like most with God – he has a great sense of humor all the time!)
Very interesting with the gospel by Luke is that he got a lot of stories not found in the three other gospels but we find him unique in having a special place for women. He was one of the earliest champions of women in the Church by mentioning many females in his stories to show their important roles in God’s plan for mankind.
In this story of the Visitation, we find a totally different presentation of women even in today’s world. What do I mean? Recall how during the lockdown the memes of pictures of women meeting with a caption “mga nagbabagang balita” (today’s news headlines) portraying women as rumor mongers or chismosas. Later when classes resumed, another meme circulated of women gathered together exchanging class modules of their children as if to show they are stage mothers.
Luke always presented women so dignified in stature like in the Visitation, so blessed by God.
First thing we notice in the story is how Luke never mentioned Mary and Elizabeth were pregnant. He merely indicated their situation by saying “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb” at 1:41 while at the following verse 1:42, Elizabeth proclaims to Mary, “Most blessed are you among women, blessed is the fruit of your womb”. Biblical scholars say that perhaps, Luke wanted to assure his readers that God’s powerful blessings marked both women, over each of whom the Holy Spirit overshadowed them with a child: Elizabeth in her barrenness and old age, Mary in her being a virgin before living with her husband Joseph.
What a display of the power of God so simple, so unassuming!
But the most beautiful part in this conversations by these two great women is the meaning of being blessed. So often when we think of being blessed, especially us Filipinos, it is something more of being “lucky” or “swerte” that means having money to spend and buy things. Sometimes being blessed for us is having achieved something that makes us and our loved ones famous.
The Visitation story tells us something entirely different: to be blessed means to believe in God, that His words would be fulfilled in us like with Mary, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45).
Luke’s Gospel teems with so many occasions of blessings beginning in the infancy narratives up to the Presentation to the temple and then of Jesus pronouncing His blessings especially to those who listen and act on God’s words or those who accept Him as the Christ.
It is at the Visitation where Luke shows us the true meaning of blessedness through Mary because of her faith and trust in God’s word spoken to her by the angel at the annunciation of the birth of Jesus Christ. Her faith makes her a model disciple to be imitated by all followers and believers of her Son Jesus Christ.
And here we find again the artistry of Luke because it is not only Mary who is blessed in the Visitation, but also Elizabeth as another model disciple like the Blessed Mother. Elizabeth was the first to call and recognize Jesus Christ as Lord, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Lk.1:43).
See that when Elizabeth heard the greeting by Mary, like when Mary heard the greeting by the angel at the annunciation, it signaled the coming of the messianic age. Pope emeritus Benedict XVI even claims the annunciation is the beginning of the New Testament.
Elizabeth is the first person as far as Luke is concerned to call Jesus “Lord” and the first to call Mary “blessed” whom she will confirm later in her Magnificat, “all generations will call me blessed” (Lk.1:48).
Two women so blessed by God because they both believed in His words, both believed in the Christ still in the womb. Mary and Elizabeth are in fact the first two Christian disciples who showed us the essential task of every disciple: after hearing the word of God and accepting it, we must share it with others not only by repeating it but interpreting it in our very lives that everyone would see it as the good news.
With barely a week left on this final week of Advent, let us ask ourselves how are we going to show to others what we believe happens in Christmas in this time of the pandemic, that true blessedness is not being rich with material wealth but being enriched by a deep and animated faith in Jesus Christ who is Christmas Himself.