Blessed are those who mourn

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2021
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-24 ><]]]'> 1 John 3:1-3 ><]]]'> Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by Fr. Howard John Tarrayo, 05 August 2021.

For the second time since last year, all roads do not lead to the cemeteries this November 1-2 due to the pandemic. While there is still that annual exodus to the provinces, the government has preferred to keep cemeteries closed despite the many casualties of COVID-19 while allowing malls and other establishments to operate, including the opening this week of favorite destinations of Baguio and Tagaytay.

Most unkind of all is how thousands of people were allowed including children to visit for several days Manila Bay’s newest attraction, the dolomite beach while cemeteries remain closed and religious gatherings still limited as this government is more concerned in “resurrecting” the economy than considering as “essential” at this time the people’s religious and spiritual needs.

And so, we mourn for the second straight year this November 1 and 2 not only for our departed loved ones but for the benighted souls of this Administration.

But, have a heart as we find solace and comfort in Jesus Christ who encourages us every year on this first day of November with his teachings on the Beatitudes which we hear proclaimed every Solemnity of All Saints. The Beatitudes reveal the mystery of Jesus Christ who invites us to enter into a communion in him by expressing also the meaning of being his disciples. Jesus is in fact every Beatitude – the one who is truly poor in spirit, the first to be persecuted, the one with a clean heart, and the peacemaker.

For this year, let us reflect on the second beatitude which we find very close to our situation under the COVID-19 pandemic as most of us have lost a family member or friends.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.”

Matthew 5:1-4

Photo by Irina Anastasiu on Pexels.com

In a world that thrives and promotes so much fun and merry-making, our second beatitude is difficult to understand or even grasp in this time of the pandemic. What is “blessed” with grieving and mourning when you have lost a loved one so suddenly, without having the chance to even see them before they were cremated?

There are two kinds of mourning that the gospels offer us exemplified by the two most extreme of the Apostles, Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and, Simon Peter who denied the Lord thrice (see “Jesus of Nazareth” by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, The Beatitudes, pp.86-89).

The first kind of mourning as shown by Judas Iscariot is when one has lost hope, succumbing to the miseries of losing a beloved and becomes mistrustful of love and of truth that leads to self-destruction. It is the worst kind of mourning that eats away and destroys man within just like Judas Iscariot who hanged himself.

Then Judas, his betrayer, seeing that Jesus had been condemned, deeply regretted what he had done. He returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying “I have sinned in betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? Look to it yourself.” Flinging the money into the temple, he departed and went off and hanged himself.

Matthew 27:3-5

The second kind of mourning that Jesus must be referring to as “blessed” which leads to salvation is when the mourning is caused by an encounter with the truth that leads to conversion like what happened to Simon Peter who was struck by the gaze of Jesus that he burst into healing tears and cleansed his soul to enable him to begin anew in his life in the Lord.

Just as he was saying this, the cock crowed, and the Lord turned and looked at Peter; and Peter remembered the word of the Lord… He went out and began to weep bitterly.

Luke 22:60-61, 62

This will have its lovely conclusion eight days after Easter before Jesus ascended into heaven when he asked Simon Peter thrice, “Do you love me?” (Jn.21:15ff.) to remind him of that episode that eventually pushed him to follow Christ unreservedly “by taking care of his sheep”.


Blessed are those who weep because first of all, they have love in their hearts. Deaths and bad news that befall our loved ones sadden us, even jolt us with deep pain that move us to console them, to suffer with them, and to be one with them by reconnecting with them and their loved ones like when we go to a funeral or a wake.

This did not happen with Judas Iscariot. The little love he had in his heart when he realized his sin was completely wiped out when he chose to surrender totally to evil, finding no more hope for forgiveness and reconciliation with Jesus. When grief becomes so overpowering and consuming, it totally wipes out the embers of love left in our hearts and like Judas, that is when we choose to die miserably sad and separated from God who is love.

Never lose hope in Jesus. Seek that love in your heart. Seek Jesus in that tiny voice telling you to always come home to him. Do not be shy nor ashamed of your loss and failure. Keep that fire of love in Jesus burning.


Blessed are those who weep because more than the love they have in their hearts, they have been loved first of all. We weep and grieve the death of a beloved family member or relative or friend because of the love they have given us, of the kindness they have shown us, and the care they have lavished us.

Simon Peter did not merely have love in his heart. Luke dramatically described to us how Peter’s eyes met the merciful and loving eyes of Jesus while he was denying the Lord. It must have struck him so hard that immediately he felt contrition for his sin, feeling strongly the need to reform himself and reconnect with the Lord. He could not let the imperfect love he has in his heart to just go to waste that is why when he wept bitterly on that Holy Thursday evening, it was not the end but the beginning of another chapter in his beautiful story of love for Jesus. It was precisely what he meant when he told Jesus at Tiberias, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you” (Jn.21:17) – that despite his weaknesses and failures, he loves Jesus, he tries so hard to love Jesus in his little ways.

When in the midst of great sufferings and pain specially after we have sinned or we have lost a loved one, we are blessed as we mourn and grieve because that is when we realize strongly our weakness and limitations that we reach out to God, to be nearer to him. To desire God in itself is always a grace and a blessing too!


Photo by author, 2018.

Blessed are those who mourn because that is when we actually stand for what is true and good, for what is just and right.

When we weep, it does not mean we have lost; in fact, even in the face of apparent loss like Jesus on the Cross, mourning is the most firm expression of our belief in what is right and just, and what is true and good.

The best scene for this kind of blessed mourning that leads to salvation is found at the death of Jesus Christ where his Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary stood by the foot of his Cross with her cousin Mary the wife of Clopas, Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple John (Ibid.,p. 87).

By standing at the foot of the Cross and later carrying in her arms the dead body of her Son Jesus Christ called La Pieta, Mary showed us that mourning is blessed because it is the strongest depiction of our solidarity with God, of our going against evil and sin.

In this world when conformity to whatever “everyone is doing” is the rule of the game like corruption, dishonesty, infidelity, lies and manipulation of people, mourning and weeping with the victims of oppression and persecution can be our strongest signs of protest and resistance against the prevailing evils of our time.

When we weep and mourn for victims of violence and evil, that is when we become God’s instruments of his comfort to his people. From the Latin words cum fortis “with strength”, to comfort means to strengthen those persecuted or oppressed or those facing intense sufferings and tests.

When we weep, when we grieve and mourn over a lost beloved or a lost cause, that is when God comforts us, when he makes us stronger in resisting evil and sin.

Ultimately, that is when our mourning leads to salvation, that is why blessed are those who mourn and weep.


What are your griefs today?

What do you mourn?

Blessed are you in your weeping not only in having love in your heart but most of all, for being loved. Dwell in the love of God in Jesus Christ like the saints who have gone ahead of us, resisting all evils and temptations to sin for the Lord comforts us his people always. Amen.

A blessed All Saints’ Day to you!

Mary, mirror of God’s greatness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2021
Revelation 11:19-12:1-6,10 ><}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><}}}*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by author, December 2020.

We take a break this Sunday from our readings in the bread of life discourse in John’s gospel to celebrate on this date the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary following Pope Pius XII’s dogma in 1950 that at the close of her earthly life, Mary was taken up body and soul into the glory of heaven.

Without telling the manner or the circumstances of time and place of the Assumption, its dogma forms part of the deposit of our faith received from the Apostles as attested by its long line of traditions since the Pentecost. It is so important that its celebration supersedes the liturgy of any Sunday because it invites us all to see in Mary raised to heaven the image of the Church and of all the faithful on our way to eternal glory with God.

It is a very timely celebration while we are in the midst of another lockdown due to a surge in COVID-19 cases, giving us hope and inspiration to persevere in all these difficulties and trials to become better disciples of Jesus like his beloved Mother.

Photo by author at the Assumption Sabbath, Baguio City, 2019.

Mary, a type of the Church

Our first reading today presents us with two images of a woman that seem to contradict each other with scenes that anti-climactic, flowing in the reverse mode. It could have been better as in most cases that the first scene depicting the woman in all glory should have been last instead of the woman in childbirth pains and dangers that comes in second. Is it not the sorrowful always comes first leading to glory?

A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth. Then another sign appeared in the sky; it was a huge red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on its heads were seven diadems.

Revelation 12:1-3

It is easy to see the Blessed Virgin Mary in that woman depicted in John’s vision especially if we continue reading on to find the title and authority attributed to her child as our Savior Jesus Christ. But modern biblical studies go deeper than that simplistic view: the scenes speak more of the birth of Christ among us his disciples. It is “painful” because it takes place amid many evil and sins like persecutions and temptations symbolized by the red dragon; but, amid all these, Jesus remains among us, leading us, protecting us, and blessing us. Hence, the woman in this passage becomes a symbol of the Church in the glory of God following Christ’s Resurrection while at the same time in the midst of many earthly battles.

Of course, no other woman can best fit that image than Mary who gave birth to Jesus, who has always been in the most intimate relationship with her son as disciple among all humankind. And because of her role in relationship to her Son, to us his disciples also his Body as community, Mary is the image or type of the Church still giving painful birth to believers like in this time of the pandemic while we are already assured of glory in heaven as children of God. Vatican II perfectly expressed it in declaring:

“By reason of the gift and role of divine maternity, by which she is united with her Son, the Redeemer, and with His singular graces and functions, the Blessed Virgin is also intimately united with the Church. As St. Ambrose taught, the Mother of God is a type of the Church in the order of faith, charity and perfect union with Christ.”

Lumen Gentium #63

With that, Mary has also become the mirror of God’s greatness in all time, the very reason we venerate her as first among the saints and angels because it is also the same call of holiness to us all as children of the Father and disciples of Christ. It is in this framework that we celebrate her Assumption, especially when we profess every Sunday: “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of body and life everlasting. Amen.”

Photo by author, Nazareth, 2019.

Greatness of God, lowliness of Mary

As we have mentioned at the start, the dogma of the Assumption of Mary does not go into details how it took place. What matters most is the fact of the Assumption of Mary, body and soul. Like with her Immaculate Conception, there are no direct nor explicit biblical references to her Assumption; however, from the collective meditations and contemplations in the Church, we find vast and rich sources in reflecting the beauty and wonder of the Blessed Mother’s unique place in our salvation history.

For the Mass of the day of the Solemnity, we contemplate on Mary’s canticle called Magnificat which she sang after being praised by her cousin Elizabeth during the Visitation.

And 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 generation will call me
blessed:  the Almighty has done 
great things for me, and holy is his Name."
(Luke 1:46-49)

It was the first proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ whom Mary first received and shared first with her cousin Elizabeth in a town in Judah. See how in the Visitation Elizabeth praised and admired Mary, becoming the first to call her “blessed among women” because “she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk.1:45). Instead of giving back her praise and admiration to Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist at that time despite her old age and being barren, Mary sang praises to God like the other great women in the Old Testament after experiencing God’s extraordinary acts in their personal lives and in Israel’s history.

Though we may never have the same personal experiences of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as members of the Church she represents, we can always look through her Magnificat the extent we have also become the mirror of the greatness of God especially at this time when everybody seems to doubt his loving presence in this time of the pandemic.


 It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat 
during our evening prayers in the Church because 
before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, 
we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

See how the Magnificat sings of the depths of Mary’s soul and her faith, of her perfect obedience to the word of God and the mission entrusted to her. Very clear in its lyrical expression, the focus and center is God, not Mary. It is the reason why we also sing the Magnificat during our evening prayers in the Church because before we can ever praise God for his kindness and majesty, we must first allow him to work in us by being lowly before him like Mary.

Have we truly been God’s lowly servant like Mary, allowing God to work his great wonders through us?

Three things I wish to share with you on Mary’s lowliness that enabled God to work his wonders through her:

First is her openness to the word of God like in the Annunciation of the birth of Jesus. Mary had a prayer life, a discipline of making time with God, setting her self aside for the Lord. Prayer is always the start of every relationship with God. That is when we truly become humble to lose control of ourselves, to forget our selves and let God in the Holy Spirit dwell into us. Even in the darkest moments of our lives, there will always be that glimmer of hope because the Holy Spirit enlightens us in our paths.

Second is Mary’s saying “YES” to God. She does not merely listen to God; she says “be it done unto me according to your word.” From the very start, Mary never doubted God in his wisdom and plans that she always said yes. One most beautiful expression by the evangelists of Mary saying yes to God is whenever Mary would “treasure in her heart” words of Jesus and of others.

But Mary’s greatest yes happened at the Cross, in her sharing in the Paschal Mystery of her Son Jesus Christ, being the only other disciple who remained with the Lord until his death. No wonder, it was to her based on tradition that the Risen Lord first appeared on Easter.

Third is Mary’s fidelity to God, her yes was not just a one-shot deal but an everyday yes to Jesus even after he had ascended into heaven. The Acts of the Apostles tells us explicitly how Mary was among the disciples present inside the upper room at Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost. Throughout the ages in her numerous apparitions, Mary said yes to God delivering Jesus Christ’s call for us to penance and conversion, to prayers and the Holy Eucharist especially at Fatima in Portugal.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

Mary went through many hardships and difficulties in her life and in the history of Israel, coming from an obscure town that was a butt of jokes of their time like when Nathanael asked Philip who claimed to have found Jesus Christ, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? (Jn.1:45)”.

In this time of the pandemic, the vision of John in the first reading becomes more real when people refuse to recognize the spiritual dimension of COVID-19, of the need to be converted and to again nurture that relationship with God following decades of affluence and materialism. Like Mary, let us be humble to accept we are not the masters of this world nor of our own life but God almighty.

We are called to persevere with Mary, to be strong in our faith and charity that God will never forsake us so we can be present among the poor and marginalized including those spirits weakened by the prolonged quarantines.

With Mary, let us believe the words of St. Paul how all will come to life again – body and soul like Mary – in the final end of time that begins right now, right here in the midst of all these trials and sufferings. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Praying for integrity

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 08 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:18-22   ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'>   Matthew 5:13-16
Photo by Ray Piedra on Pexels.com
Jesus said to his disciples:
"You are the salt of the earth.  
But if salt loses its taste,
with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
(Matthew 5:13)

Thank you very much for calling us “blessed”, Lord Jesus Christ; but, of what use is our being filled with the spirit of your Beatitudes if we cannot live it out, if we cannot show it and make it work in our lives? Then we are nothing but tasteless salt!

Give us, O Lord, the grace of integration, of wholeness or holiness of putting into practice the grace and virtues you have given us.

Enable us to activate your Spirit in us, not just filling us, not just a feeling of being with you but most of all, reaching out to others, touching lives, leaving your marks of loving service and mercy.

We do not have to be a stand out, we do not have to be known and even noticed by everyone.

It is enough for us to be like the salt, Lord: just a pinch or a dash enough to give taste, to blend with everyone and with everything we do, changing and transforming people and situations in your favor without being seen or known for that is true blessedness – making you known, not us.

Like St. Paul, let our “yes” to your call and mission remain firm and steadfast even if situations and circumstances would sometimes delay us in fulfilling our promise but never neglect our mission and fidelity to you.

When things do not happen according to our plans and schedules, keep us more faithful to you, dear Jesus; for although outside factors may change beyond our control, what matters most is the inside of us, within our very hearts, there you are reigning supreme, giving us security in your in fulfilling and completing your work.

We pray, dear God for our co-workers in you, our co-journeyers in this life of commitment who are feeling weak and saddened by the many criticisms from detractors when their mission is delayed or temporarily shelved for unforeseen circumstances. Do not let them lose sight of the goals and mission you have entrusted for our main challenge in life is being faithful to you than successful. Amen.

True blessedness this Christmas

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
Photo by author, Church of the Visitation, the Holy Land, May 2017.

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.”

Luke 1:39-45

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.

Photo by author, frescoes at the Church of the Visitation depicting the Visitation and then the infamous Holy Innocents Day of how an angel helped save the child John the Baptist from Herod’s executioners (2019).

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).

True blessings

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).

Photo by author, Advent Week IV, 2020.

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.

A blessed Monday to everyone!

The problem with beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-2 for the Soul 
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Advent Week III, 17 December 2020
Genesis 49:2, 8-10     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 1:1-17
Photo by author of sun beginning to shine over the mountain ranges Sinai Desert in Egypt, May 2019.

Yesterday we started our reflection with an old Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear? by Bing Crosby; today, it is Andy Williams turn to serenade us with the opening lines to the theme of the 1970 film Love Story:

Where do I begin 
To tell the story of how great a love can be 
The sweet love story that is older than the sea 
The simple truth about the love she brings to me 
Where do I start

No. I did not see that movie now a classic but I was old enough to remember its theme that became popular even for some more years during the 70’s that made Andy Williams so well-known when we were in elementary school. His song came to my mind as I grappled – which usually happened – on how to begin this reflection.

Where do I begin or how shall I begin? is one of our most common question in almost anything we start doing or telling because beginning any undertaking is always difficult. Experts have tackled it like Stephen Covey telling us to “begin with the end in sight” while Simon Sinek insists we always “start with why”.

Every beginning – like a homily or a speech, a business venture, or even an exercise program – means so much as it gives us a gist of where it is leading to, of what is going to happen.

The evangelists also wrestled with the same issue and they all have their own style in starting their gospel account but nothing beats Matthew in his most unique manner by beginning with a series of names in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. According to the late American biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown, he was willing to bet that if anyone is asked to tell the story of Jesus to a non-believer, no one will ever imitate Matthew by starting with Abraham begetting Isaac, Isaac is the father of…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…

Matthew 1:1-3
Photo by author of an oasis in the Dead Sea region of Israel, May 2017.

God the Prime Mover, the Beginning of everything

Today we shift our focus in our Advent preparations to the first coming of Jesus Christ when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Strictly speaking, the Church’s official countdown to Christmas begins only today when all our weekday readings from December 17-24 are focused on how the birth of Jesus happened.

And what a way to start this series with the gospel by Matthew that begins with “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”! The Greek is more literal in stating it as “The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

That makes Matthew’s gospel so unique by starting it with names that all sound so weird to us today.
So, what’s with the names? Of course, a name is everything!

Companies and organizations pay huge amounts of money for their trademarks and logos like Coca-Cola, IBM, and Apple. Some corporate or product names have in fact entered our vocabulary like Xerox for copiers, Colgate for toothpaste and Frigidaire for refrigerators.

Every name carries a story, a meaning, a mission, even a destiny. How sad that we Filipinos rarely take this seriously especially in giving names to children that often becomes a joke or a disaster, or both. But to foreigners especially the Jewish people, a name is more than an identification but also one’s mission.

When we examine each name in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, we discover it is just like our own family trees with some men and women not really that exceptional, even a shame and an embarrassment to the family. Behind each name we have heard is an imperfect person -except for Joseph and Mary – with so many sins and mistakes.

And that is the good news of today: God does not call the qualified but qualifies His call.

Everything begins with God – our lives and coming into being. In all eternity, God perfectly knows everything that will happen to us and yet He chose to believe in us, despite our imperfections and being prone to sin that He sent us to this world with a mission to make His Son our Lord Jesus come into the world through us, just like his ancestors.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.

From the imperfect “house of King David” to Jesus Christ’s eternal kingdom

Let us take the first name mentioned by Matthew in starting his gospel, David who makes this genealogy so interesting. In fact, it was on him the whole genealogy is structured by Matthew. And we all know how imperfect was David, of how he had sinned when he took Bathsheba the wife of army officer Uriah whom he ordered placed in a position that got him killed in a battle.

But that is how God works – so unlike us! God is a God of surprises who works so unpredictably unlike us humans. Imagine after all the sex scandals with Bathsheba, God still promised an eternal kingdom coming from the house of David, that of Jesus Christ: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sam.7:16, first reading on Sunday and morning of Thursday).

At the end of his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew added this interesting note:

Thus the total number of of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:17

Matthew is up to something here! Why build around the history of Israel and genealogy of Jesus Christ around a person who had gravely sinned against God and others?

Most likely. Remember how Matthew experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness when Jesus came to call him while at his tax collection booth and he immediately stood and left everything behind to follow the Lord. Matthew knew well that God is not like humans who box people and label them like things.

Caravaggio’s famous painting of the call of Matthew by Jesus from wikicommons.org.

In assembling to us three sets of fourteen generations that traced the coming of Jesus Christ from Abraham structured around David, Matthew shows us how God worked through this sinful man a series of new “beginnings” in life, both in grace and in sin. See the genealogy rising from Abraham to David, then its decline and descent from Solomon to the Babylonian Exile, and then rising again to the advent of Jesus.

Now try to imagine how great and loving is our God and Father who chose to believe in David, a person just like us with many imperfections and prone to sins! See His power and holiness in setting any sinful situation for new beginnings of grace and blessings.


Sometimes,
God uses our occasions of sins
as new beginnings 
of His grace and blessings.

One thing I have realized in life is that our most unforgettable moments happen either when we are nearest, or farthest away from God.

This is very amazing. Consider when are we closest to God? Most often that is when we were high and good, feeling blessed and loved, when healthy and successful that were ironically the times we rarely thought of God. We only remember those moments as our closest with God after being away in fact from Him!

And when are we farthest from God? Quickly we say when we were deep in sin, when lost, or when unloved and misunderstood.

Between these two moments, it is most often when we are farthest from God that is always most unforgettable, the ones we remember always, the ones that have left the deepest cut in us because those times in turn have become occasions for us to begin anew in God!

Like David. Or Matthew known before as Levi the tax collector.

Photo by author of the Lake of Galilee shortly after sunrise, May 2019.

That is how God sometimes would make it for us to begin anew in Him! See how at the first set of fourteen generations from Abraham to David, we find the whole history of Israel so close with God punctuated by Egypt and Exodus when their sins “turned” into their favor. In the second set of fourteen generations from Solomon to the Babylonian exile, the Israelites sank into their lowest point in history when led by their kings they turned away from God, worshipping idols. But, God did not abandon them as we see in the third set of fourteen generations when things got better as the Israelites returned to God and to their Promised Land reaching its high point in Jesus Christ’s birth.

God is the beginning of everything and even if we try to “end” with our many sins what He had began, He always finds ways to begin anew even when we are so far away from Him.

This is also the meaning of the Jacob’s choice for Judah over his other sons in being the tribe to continue his family line leading to the fulfillment of the Davidic lineage in Jesus Christ. It was from Judah came the name of their religion “Judaism” even if Judah was not the best and holiest of Jacob’s sons. Joseph the Dreamer must have been the wisest choice as more suitable to have been blessed by their father or by God himself but, that is not the way of God.

By starting his gospel with the line “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”, Matthew shows us God’s total power and goodness as source and beginning of all good things who also has the last and final say in everything.

In the genealogy of Jesus, we are reminded that every day is a new beginning in God, right in our darkness and sin, in our sickness and pandemic. David like Judah may have sinned so great before God but His mercy and love proved greater than their sins that they were able to rise again to become better and holier in His grace.

That’s one great beginning we can start right here, right now in our Simbang Gabi! A blessed Thursday to you! Amen.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, our Parish at night, 29 November 2020.

Simply holy

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Leo the Great, Pope, 10 November 2020
Titus 2:1-8, 11-14     >><)))*>  >><)))*>  >><)))*>     Luke 17:7-10
Photo by author, 2019.

God our Father, fill us with your Holy Spirit today so we may show you to others with our good examples of kind deeds and gentle words, loving patience and silent perseverance in the face of life’s many challenges worsened by the pandemic and recent events that make witnessing to your Son’s gospel so difficult.

Surely, if we speak like St. Paul today calling on Titus to be “consistent with sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1) in telling elder men and women as well as younger men and women on how to behave properly, people would laugh at us and even scorn us for being old-fashioned.

How sad that today, we no longer talk about setting good examples for others to follow and emulate but simply rely on what is seen on television and social media, pointing out what’s wrong or what should not be imitated without really trying to be a witness of gospel values like saying prayers, dressing properly and decently, being considerate of others in everything.

Give us the courage, Lord, “to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age” (Titus 1:11-12).

Like the servant in the parable today, may we take pride in our tasks and roles as your servants, O God, leading holy lives and genuinely caring for one another in love like St. Leo the Great who rose to fame and holiness “without much effort” of trying hard but by simply leading a holy life. Amen.

Restore all things in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Teresa of Avila, Virgin and Doctor of the Church, 15 October 2020
Ephesians 1:1-10     <*(((><<  || + + + ||   >><)))*>     Luke 11:47-54
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña at a Carmelite Monastery in Israel, 2016.

You know so well, O God, how we must pray to you that you have taught St. Paul one of the most beautiful prayer – and greetings – we can all recite individually or communally when gathered in your name.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens, as he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world to be holy and without blemish before him.

Ephesians 1:3-4

So beautiful are these words showing to us our blessedness in Jesus Christ! If we could all be aware of our blessedness in you that springs from your infinite love for us poured by Jesus Christ at the Cross, maybe there would be less chaos in the world today.

Forgive us in wasting your blessings, exchanging them for fleeting pleasures of fame and wealth that set us apart from one another. Worst, in misleading others away from you with our sinful ways of life like the enemies of Jesus in today’s gospel.

Help us restore all things in your Son, dear Father, like St. Teresa of Avila who taught us to be mindful always of Jesus Christ’s love for us.

Whenever we think of Christ we should recall the love that led him to bestow on us so many graces and favors, and also the great love God showed in giving us in Christ a pledge of his love; for love call for love in return.

St. Teresa of Avila, Office of Readings, October xv

St. Teresa of Avila, pray for us!

From Pinterest.com.

Blessedness springs from brokenness

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 03 October 2020
Job 42:1-3, 5-6, 12-17   |||+|||  >><)))*> <*(((><<   |||+|||   Luke 10:17-24
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2017.

God our loving Father, another week is closing and another is coming. Thank you for the many blessings you have given us, most especially for those blessings that have come our way through many trials and sufferings.

Like Job, if not for my many brokenness, pains and disappointments, I would have never been this strong and so blessed. Looking back to those days of trials, I am so grateful to you like Job, O God, in opening my eyes to so many wonderful things I cannot know nor even understand!

I have dealt with great things that I do not understand; things too wonderful for me, which I cannot know. I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you.

Job 42:3, 5

I pray in a very special way today for people going through very rough times of crises, those diagnosed with cancer, those who have lost a loved one, and those whose business have hit rock bottom due to the pandemic.

Keep us all faithful to your call, God, for true blessedness is not found in doing but in being in you through your Son Jesus who told us “Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Lk.10:20). Amen.

Generosity comes from the heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXV-A, Ordinary Time, 20 September 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9   >><)))*>   Philippians 1:20-24, 27   >><)))*>   Matthew 20:1-16
Photo by the author on the way to Petra in Jordan, May 2019.

There was something amusing I realized while praying this Sunday’s gospel of how in our time we no longer hear or use the word “generous” anymore — except when the topic is about food like in the expression “generous servings”!

We all love and enjoy “generous servings” of food and drinks whether in restaurants or at home or at parties because it means something more than what we pay for or come for. And that is the essence of generosity: the giving of more than what is required and just. It is love in the real sense like the prayer for generosity by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Dearest Lord:
Teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not heed the wounds,
To toil and not seek for rest,
To labor and ask not for reward, except
To know that I am doing your will.  Amen. 
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Generosity bonds every community in Christ

Sorry if I have to start our reflection through the stomach because today is our “Pistang Pasasalamat” (Thanksgiving) in the Parish…

Going back to our reflection, my dear reader, recall how in the past two weeks we have heard Jesus teaching us important lessons how our relationships must be based on mutual love through fraternal correction and forgiving of those who have sinned against us.

This Sunday through another parable, Jesus teaches us the importance of generosity as a wonderful expression of love we forget most in our relationships and dealing with others.

Generosity is the glue that keeps our ties stronger and keeps us filled with joy because it is thinking more of the other person than of self. It is love at its finest – charming and elegant as in suave – but so disarming and revealing when overlooked as we shall see in this parable.

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for is vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’ So they went off. And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o’clock, he found others standing around, and said to them… You too go into my vineyard.’ When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’ When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage. So when the the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage. And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them i reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you. Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what is yours and go. What if I wish to give this last one the same as you? Or am I not free to do as I wish my own money? Are you envious because I am generous?'”

Matthew 20:1-15

Notice how Jesus again elicited our feelings to drive home his lesson today about love as basis of our relationships. Last week we totally agreed with the king in punishing the merciless servant whose debt he had forgiven but was unmerciful to a fellow servant and debtor.

This Sunday, with whom did we take sides with? Be honest. Did you side with the workers hired in the morning and worked all day only to receive a pay exactly the same with those who worked only for an hour? Did we also feel treated unfairly like them?

But, why are we reacting the same way as those workers who toiled under the sun? What is our complaint? Are we envious because the owner is generous?

Recall our reflections last month about the parable as a simple story conveying deeper truths about life and our selves. From the French parabolein -along the way – Jesus is inviting us to read anew this parable we have heard so many times in the past so we may enter into a dialogue with him to purify and cleanse us to get its whole picture. And hopefully, become generous too.

Nuns bringing goods to the poor during the height of the Luzon-wide lockdown last summer.

Human justice, Divine kindness

The parable is not about social justice and just wages: it is about the immense love of God for us all. Jesus said it at the start, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner…” – it is a parable about God and his kingdom.

See the great love of the landowner who went out five times during the day, even at late afternoon so people may have a job to earn some money for the day. We have to keep in mind that the workers were hired because the owner is kind. Period.

The owner is like the good shepherd Jesus described as who would leave the rest of his flock to search for one missing sheep.

How many times have we acted like those early workers, complaining to God when we feel “shortchanged” for our work and efforts, or being better and more good perhaps than others?

It happens so many times when we question him even in the Church and specially in the society and government when we cannot understand how God who is supposed to be just and fair is allowing all injustices and evil to happen like during this time of COVID-19.

The first reading reminds us that to think that way as if we know everything is dangerous because we could be very wrong and mistaken after all. God sees and knows everything that in the end amid all the twists and turns in history and in our personal lives, it is always his will that prevails which proves best for us and mankind. In times like these, we need to have faith in God and trust him more through prayers and reflections.

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call him while he is near… As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:6, 9
Photo by author, Jaffa in Israel, May 2017.

We keep on saying that one immediate fruit of having a prayer life is the heightening of our sensitivities when we see more of God in others than more of ourselves. The problem with those workers hired earlier in the day that instead of thanking God for his kindness in hiring them, they even wanted more in their pay than what they have agreed upon — so selfish and feeling so entitled like some among us!!!

God as the landowner is teaching us not only to be thankful for the blessings we have received from him but also to rejoice when others aside from us are also blessed. As everyone would say these days, “sana all” are blessed, not only a selected few.

Again we find here a similar situation in the parable of the prodigal son where the father told the elder one that “everything I have is yours” (Lk.15:31) when he refused to come home to celebrate the return of his younger brother, citing how he had obeyed the father all his life without being given a young goat to feast with his friends.

Like that loving father of the prodigal son, God is reminding us this Sunday in this parable to rejoice that others have been blessed, instead of grumbling and complaining, demanding for more than what we have, forgetting everything is out of God’s goodness, never because of our merits.

Looking inside our hearts

My dear friends, this time of the pandemic invites us to be generous by looking deep into our hearts, of seeing God more and others than just our self. At this time when life is so difficult and death is so closest to home with everyone, the best thing we can do is to thank God for his gift of life to us each day and to deepen our faith in him.

Lately I have been praying to God to grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart as we find ourselves in his similar situation of being imprisoned: him for the gospel, us due to COVID-19.

See the faith of St. Paul in God that even in prison with his death approaching each day, he continues to rejoice and experience peace within because he had realized that the success of the gospel is not on human efforts but in Jesus whom we cannot box in our little worlds and beliefs, rites and rituals. In fact, he was so confident that even with his death, the more the gospel would spread.

Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, March 2020.

Brothers and sisters: Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death… conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.

Philippians 1:20, 27

Last Sunday, Jesus taught us to forgive from the heart, that is, to see one another as a brother and sister in God our Father who forgives us without limits for our many sins.

Today, Jesus is asking us to give from the heart – to be generous – not for anything else but because we are brothers and sisters in God our Father who blesses us without limits despite our sinfulness.

Generosity comes from the heart when in that heart is Jesus whom we find dwelling, giving us peace and joy no matter how much suffering we go through because him alone suffices that we are willing to let go of everything.

Share a generous serving of God’s blessings today to someone in need. Amen.

A blessed Sunday and week to you!

When people reject us…

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Thursday, Easter Week VI, 21 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 18:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 16:16-20

Photo from yourteenmag.com.

Thank you dear Jesus in speaking to us today in our readings about rejection we all detest due to its deep and painful hurts that affect us even for a lifetime.

In the first reading, St. Paul was successively rejected in his preaching about your Good News of salvation while in the gospel, you remind us of our coming rejection by the world that had first rejected you.

Indeed, you were the first to be rejected and that is why you can speak so well of its nature; but, at the same time, you encourage us to be strong because when we are rejected, that is when we are led into joy.

You know how sad and even tragic is the feeling of being rejected by others, of being turned down, of being driven out, and worst, of being crucified simply because others refuse to accept us for so many reasons, from our skin color to our hairstyle to our religious beliefs and everything.

That is the saddest part of rejection: when we are rejected for reasons we have no control of, for being who we are.

But, you also teach us today, Jesus, that the worst part of rejection is “self-rejection” — when we ourselves affirm our rejection by others!

That happens when we stop pursuing our dreams and fulfilling our mission, when we stop living and give in to the rejection of others, when we go into self-pity that we are worthless, that we are nothing, that we are useless.

Like yesterday when the Athenians scoffed and rejected St. Paul’s teachings of your resurrection, they could not accept that there is always a chance in life in you, that we are all your beloved, forgiven and saved.

Give us the drive and determination of St. Paul to never lose sight of our mission in life despite many rejections by others. Keep us strong and persevering despite the many rejections we go through in life.

“Amen, amen, I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”

John 16:20

Most of all, let us always be filled with the grace and power of the Holy Spirit to keep in mind we are your Father’s beloved children, saved and forgiven in you Jesus Christ from our many sins and shameful past, ensured of a better tomorrow because you always believe in us, you always trust us, and you always give us each morning as a new chance to make up for our losses and mistakes yesterday. Amen.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Pexels.com