Advent is seeing our bright future

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, 14 December 2020
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17 >><)))*> +++ <*(((><< Matthew 21:23-27
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday. 13 December 2020.

Time flies so fast, O God our Father. We are now at the penultimate week before Your Son’s birth and sadly, we seem to have been catapulted here without us realizing even earlier because we have been insensitive to your presence.

We have been impatient in awaiting Your daily revelations in little things and not so good experiences happening to us.

How sad that we your people have kept our eyes closed from seeing you coming, doing wondrous things for us like what the pagan diviner Balaam had seen for Israel. He was supposed to curse them but was compelled to bless them upon seeing You and Your great plans for them in the future that included the coming of the Christ.

I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.

Numbers 24:17

In the gospel, the learned people of your time also refused to see and accept Jesus Christ’s coming, preoccupied with what they knew and only wanted to see just like us today.

Bless us, O Lord, to imitate St. John of the Cross in finding you and your bright future in the midst of the Cross. May these last two weeks of Advent be moments of reflections and prayers for us to find You, to experience You, and see Your bright future in store for us as we follow you to the Cross.

The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

St. John of the Cross, Office of Readings, 14 December 2020

Amen.

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!

Tunay na pagpapala

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

True blessedness

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 1:41-42, 45

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Of Blessings And Curses

balaamcatacomb
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 08 November 2018

            Events and news reports during the recent long weekend reminded me of the story in the Old Testament of a pagan prophet named Balaam who was commissioned to curse the Israelites while encamped at the plains of Moab, ready to enter the Promised Land 40 years after their Exodus from Egypt.  It is a story filled with humorous twists and turns that instead of cursing the Israelites, Balaam blessed them and even prophesied the coming to them of the Savior Jesus Christ.  It is a funny story like the movie “Shrek” with a talking donkey.

             When Balaam was riding his ass (pun intended) on his way to Moab to curse the Israelites, an angel of the Lord with a sword drawn stationed himself on the road to hinder him from proceeding. He did not see the angel but his ass saw the angel that she turned into the field.  Balaam beat his ass to bring her back on the road.  As they passed through a narrow lane between vineyards with a stone wall on each side, the ass saw the angel of the Lord again blocking their way that she shrank against the wall and squeezed Balaam’s leg onto it.  Again, Balaam did not see the angel that he beat his ass for backing out.  Upon reaching a passage so narrow without any space to move either to the right or the left, the ass again saw the angel of the Lord blocking their road.  The ass cowered under Balaam and in his anger, beat her again with his stick.  God opened the mouth of the ass to speak, asking Balaam why he would always beat her despite her services to him?!  It was during his conversation with his ass that God opened the eyes of Balaam to see His angel and get His message to bless the Israelites (cf. Num. 22:20-35).
           Is Baguio City a modern Moab with its new law prohibiting “cursing, cussing, expressing insults or the use of foul language to express anger or any other extreme emotion in establishments frequented by students, from pre-school to college level”?

I have always loved and admired Baguio City in its efforts to keep its morals intact despite the growing lamentable practice of many Filipinos these days of spending Holy Week vacationing there instead of praying in their homes and parishes.  It is perhaps the only city with a law calling on all people to pause during the Angelus.  And now, it is the only city too that prohibits the use of foul language.  Members of its city council have noted in their Anti-Profanity Ordinance how the habit of cursing has “already penetrated schools and educational system, business establishments and society as a whole, that even the very fabric of morals and human decency has deteriorated to such a degree that we have to prevent it before the damage would become irreparable.”  It defined profanity as “blasphemous or obscene language vulgar or irreverent speech or action; expletive oath, swearing, cursing, or obscene expression usually of surprise or anger.”

             Baguio City is deteriorating fast and though this Anti-Profanity Ordinance does not address anything at all in improving environmental conditions there, it shows us that unless we first cleanse whatever is within us, these are reflected with the problems around us.  “Ex abudantia cordis” is the Lord’s reminder to us all, “from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).  Though the ordinance is not really clear in its scope and purpose expressed only in three pages of paper, it is a good reminder that whatever is evil and bad would always be evil and bad, with or without any written law.  To curse or speak ill of anybody, wishing evil or harm to someone is always bad.  And despite the claims by the defenders of the President that saying bad words does not make anyone entirely bad, recent events have shown exactly the opposite of their claims, that anyone speaking of good things does not make him or her good at all.

             On Halloween day which the benighted souls have insisted on celebrating the pagan way by dressing as ghosts, actor and former tourism official Cesar Montano’s selfie with a naked woman at the background went viral and spawned many spoofs.  How I wish I have the vocabulary of Nabokov but I could not find the proper English words to describe those videos that are salaula, baboy, and kadiri!  And of course not to forget during the long weekend is the President’s usual dose of follies of the highest level when he spewed his usual profanities against the Church and the All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day celebrations, a day after calling on the nation to “emulate our saints, pray for the eternal repose of souls and deepen our engagement with our communities as we work for real and lasting change.”  Not contented with the foul language, the President even declared himself a saint.

             Blessing is from the Latin term benedicere that literally means “to speak or say good things.”  To wish somebody “God bless you” in the midst of a malicious situation, in a life far from being a blessed one or simply just because as in “wala lang” is not only a profanity but also a blasphemy. Of course, priests who are supposed to be channels of God’s blessings commit the highest level of profanity and blasphemy if they lead lives of sin and corruption, abusing not only children and women but the entire people of God, including God Himself.  This is what the anti-profanity law of Baguio is missing, skipping that portion on who should not use obscene language.  The evil of foul language is similar with pornography:  it is always immoral regardless of age because it is a lack of respect to the dignity of persons.

Why-Was-God-Mad-at-Balaam--JM2

              The story of Balaam and of his ass reminds us that we are all a blessing to everyone.  Listen to what the donkey told Balaam:  “What have I done to you that you should beat me these three times?  Am I not you’re your own beast, and have you not ridden upon me until now?  Have I been in the habit of treating you this way before?” (Num.22: 28, 30)   How ironic that the dumbest creature in the universe was the one to remind Balaam and us that we should never treat badly and speak ill of anyone because we are all a blessing to everyone.  Most of all, the talking donkey of Balaam reminds us how blessings can turn into a curse someday and curses could eventually be a blessing too.  It has happened so many times in history, not only to nations and corporations but even in the Church that is still rocked by sexual scandals committed long time ago.  The early Christians have depicted the story of Balaam and his ass in their early arts like in the Roman catacombs (photo above) and in some churches in Europe to show how God works in mysterious ways, especially with the power of our words to bless, or to curse. Be a blessing!

*Photos from Google.