Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 22 November 2020
"As Jesus approached Jericho
a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging"
So many times I see myself in him
blinded by sins
and false securities
preferring to remain
at the safe side
at home with my comfort zone;
I get tired of begging
of being blind
deciding to leave the roadside
to finally meet Jesus,
asking him to restore my sight.
O what a scene to behold
of the beautiful journey
only if I go
to the middle of the road
to be with the Lord!
"At that time Jesus came to Jericho;
but Zacchaeus was short in stature"
So often in life
Jesus truly intends to pass
through wherever we are
only to test
if we would dare
to rise above our selves
to see and meet him there;
the key is to admit reality
that we are always short
in moral standing
but never in humility
if we can truly
then we see its beauty
when from the middle of the road
the Lord looks up to us
calling us to come down
for he had come to be with us!
This is the most lovely
thing I have heard
the Lord said:
"Those whom I love,
I reprove and chastise.
Be earnest, therefore, and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door
and knock. If anyone hears my voice
and opens the door, then I will
enter his house and dine with him,
and he be with me."
The Lord always comes,
bidden and unbidden,
but, are we open to meet him,
willing to leave
the roadside, climb a tree
if needed or turn the knob
to see and meet him?
Yes, Jesus is always passing by,
do not let yourself be left behind.
The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 16 November 2020
Revelation 1:1-4; 2:1-5 >><)))*> + <*(((><< Luke 18:35-43
God our Father… I cannot find the words to tell you what is in my heart as I saw the images of devastations and sufferings of your people these past days. Part of me feels thankful for my lesser worries like not having running water and other things but my heart goes out to those people still trapped in floods with little or no food and water at all.
Sufferings are all around us, dear Father. Hear our pleas, especially the cries of children, of mothers, and of elderlies.
It is true that we are partly to be blamed for these sufferings as we have refused to alter our lifestyles that destroy the environment. Worst of all, of our refusal to take an active part in choosing and electing credible leaders in government.
Like the people of Ephesus, we are good at speaking out against wickedness but have merely remained at the sides, preferring to stay in our comfort zones.
Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first. Otherwise, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
Fill us with your Holy Spirit, Father, to courageously follow your Son Jesus Christ on the street as he passes by like that blind man sitting by the roadside begging; but, upon hearing Jesus was passing by, he left the roadside to come to Jesus on the street.
Like him, we pray, “Lord, please let me see” (Lk.18:41). Amen.
How ironic and even sad, Lord Jesus Christ that in this age of too much information around us, when nothing is hidden with everything revealed without any propriety and decency, all the more we live in a world of lies and insincerity.
There is the great disparity between what is deep inside our hearts and what we put up front for all to see.
We have become like the scribes and Pharisees who give too much emphasis on little things, forgetting the more essential ones in life like love and mercy, kindness and goodwill to one another.
We have become so concerned with our outside appearances, forgetting what is in our hearts.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites. You cleanse the outside of cup and dish, but inside they are full of plunder and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may be clean.”
Teach us, O Lord, to have a pure heart so we may see you!
Remove our blindness to fame and popularity, blindness to what is easy and convenient, blindness to our false beliefs, and blindness to you, Lord Jesus because we are so full of ourselves. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 April 2020
This is for my brother priests and fellow communicators in the church who might be failing to recognize Jesus Christ along the way and sadly, stuck at Emmaus.
That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the tings that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.
We live our faith today in a mass-mediated culture.
Media is all around us.
Vatican II tells us that these modern means of communications are gifts from God that are “necessary for the formation of Christians and for pastoral activity” (Inter Mirifica, 3).
Communication is a sharing in the power of God who created everything by just saying “Let there be…”. When this power to communicate is mishandled and eventually abused, sooner or later, it can blind us and prevent us from recognizing Jesus in our midst.
And sadly, it is already happening.
Even before the start of the enhanced community quarantine, many of us were already using the various platforms of social media proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.
But, are our hearts still burning deep inside in him and for him?
Is Jesus still the One we are proclaiming, or are we now trying to be like the so-called “influencers” of the secular world that we are more preoccupied and focused with gimmicks and antics, shows and bravaduras for the sake of followers and likes?
Are our hearts still burning with the Sacred Scriptures or the words of the world that we have made our ambos and altars like studios and stage complete with all the props to tickle the bones of people than build up their faith and experience Jesus?
On the road to Emmaus, after Cleopas had expressed their feelings and thoughts to Jesus, he and his companion fell silent and simply listened to Jesus explaining the Sacred Scriptures. No need to shout or mimic voices.
No need to keep on clapping hands like in a circus or even dance like Salome who later asked for the head of St. John the Baptist.
It is sad that on the road to Emmaus, it has become our monologue, our show that Jesus can no longer speak.
Remember that “in the beginning was the word, and the word became flesh”: God’s communication is always preceded by silence.
Even in the road to Emmaus, there was total silence when Jesus spoke that the two disciples were silent that they felt their hearts burning.
As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them…
The Mass and our Priesthood are both a mystery so unique especially for us. It is something beyond explanation without much physical descriptions but more of inner recognition.
Exactly like Easter: the moment we recognize Jesus in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, he vanishes because he is more than enough than anybody or anything else in the Mass and in our ministry in general.
Even in our very own lives!
St. Mother Teresa asked us priests long ago to “always give (them) Jesus, only Jesus”. And that will always be valid until the end of time when Jesus comes again.
And here lies the great lesson for us from Emmaus: the more we try harder, insisting on giving “physical appearances” of Jesus in our celebrations with our showbiz kind of preaching complete with a song and dance number to the excessive use of modern means of communications like slide presentations during homilies to our “creative liturgies” that are very distracting to other trappings of overdoing everything called “triumphalism” — that is when we BANISH Jesus from the scene.
In Emmaus, Jesus vanished when the disciples’ eyes were opened.
In some Masses today, unfortunately, Jesus is banished and many eyes are not only left closed but sadly, even blinded.
We are priests called to preside the celebration of the Eucharist in persona Christi.
We priests do not own the Mass and we cannot insist on whatever we want to do, even if it is very pleasing and delighting to the senses of the people.
Do away wit all those “styles” and gimmicks.
Jesus saved us not with activities; Jesus saved us by dying on the Cross.
If all we are concerned with is to “feel good”, to tickle our bones and senses, our eyes – and those of the people we serve and bring closer to God would never be opened to recognize Jesus Christ.
Our Masses and other celebrations need only Jesus, always Jesus.
There is no need to put our pictures in every tarpaulin or announcement. Rest assured that every disciple of Jesus is always good-looking and handsome. Believe. And stop bragging it.
Let us have him always and let others recognize him from within. If there is no inner recognition of Jesus, maybe we have never met him at all. Neither in Emmaus nor in Jerusalem nor in our selves.
A blessed week ahead of you, my brother priests and fellow communicators of Christ, in Christ.
40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week IV-A, 22 March 2020
1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13 +++ Ephesians 5:8-14 +++ John 9:1-41
Today is the Fourth Sunday of Lent known in its Latin verb form “Laetare Sunday” when the liturgy calls us to rejoice because Easter is fast approaching.
But how can we rejoice in the midst of an “enhanced community quarantine” or lockdown, when we cannot even come to church to celebrate the Sunday Mass together, when so many people are dying while millions of others face uncertainties with the widespread disruptions and problems in life caused by COVID-19 worldwide.
On this date is also my 55th birthday – but, no worries, the more I rejoice in the Lord almost alone. Thank you for all the greetings that have been pouring since yesterday. As I was telling you last Sunday, COVID-19 has brought some blessings or good news too for us.
Let us rejoice in the Lord today because he has not left us, the more we feel him present with us, thanks or no thanks to Corona virus.
As Jesus passed by he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him.”
Our “blaming game” vs. light of Christ
More than ever as we suffer through this pandemic of COVID-19, many of us have again resorted to that old myth that whenever something bad happens to us, especially sickness, it is always taken as a punishment from God.
It is totally untrue because nothing bad can come from God. Many times in our lives, we become artificially blind that despite our gift of sight we fail and even refuse to see the truth and realities in us and around us, even in front of us!
What happens is our tendency to blame others like in that question to Jesus, who sinned – the parents or the man himself that he was born blind?
This is the problem with our “blaming game” : we are blinded from taking responsibilities for our acts that we would rather blame others even God for everything bad that happens to us. There are more times that there is no one to be blamed at all like our genes or Mother Nature; we just have to accept things as they are.
And that’s one lesson we must learn fast: there can be no rejoicing when there is no self-acceptance.
How funny and sad that less than a week since our Luzon-wide lockdown, many of us have been quarreling on-line on almost everything we see and hear on TV and the social media that has led to bashing and nasty exchanges of words, even breakdowns. Very funny, and tragic when we focus on non-essentials, almost forgetting COVID-19.
How tragic that some chose to hide facts and truths that have caused the lives of others, too. This is the dark reality of our blaming game – we never admit anything wrong about us.
See beyond external things. Try seeing also how God is working in our midst as Jesus offers us in this holy season of Lent the best way to deal with our present situation by returning to him, by believing in him.
Have you noticed the many little miracles happening in some families now together, praying together, staying together?
One reason for rejoicing this fourth Sunday of Lent is perhaps everyone’s hope that after this COVID-19 episode, we all start a new chapter of renewed relationships and bonds, of fresh outlooks after rediscovering the value of life and every person again.
Jesus spat on the ground and made clay with the saliva, and smeared the clay on his eyes, and said to him, “Go wash in the Pool of Siloam”- which means Sent. So he went and washed, and came back able to see.
Here again is the presence of water like in last Sunday’s story to remind us of the Sacrament of Baptism which is closely tied with the season of Lent. St. John had translated the meaning of Siloam as “Sent” to stress that Jesus is the Christ, the One sent to cleanse us and wash away our blindness caused by sins and evil.
Another reason to rejoice this Sunday! Most especially now many of us realize the value of the Holy Mass, especially the Sunday Eucharist we used to take for granted before. Every time we celebrate the Mass, we perfect the Baptism we have received when we are washed and refreshed anew in Jesus through his words and Body and Blood.
It is only when we stop blaming others when we begin to see our true selves, when changes finally begin to happen in us.
Like God, let us try to see things and persons beyond what is physical. In the first reading, God chose David over his elder and better brothers who would later defeat Goliath to become Israel’s greatest king from whose lineage came Jesus Christ.
Jesus on the Cross, our true joy
The moment we remove Jesus in our lives, when we refuse to acknowledge him as our Lord and Savior, that is also when we are blinded by sin, especially by pride.
Do we not see this so true that led one way or the other to this pandemic?
We have totally turned away from God and his ways, following our greedy paths of power and wealth. We have long been distant from one another despite the great advances in modern communications that have also brought us farther away from God as we spend more time with our gadgets.
We can never rejoice for ourselves and for others when we are far from Jesus Christ. In his very unique manner of looking at things, St. John presents to us some funny contrasts in the story of the man born blind that we also see happening in this COVID-19 pandemic.
First is when the people doubted the man healed by Jesus was himself the one “who used to sit and beg”, despite his clear declaration of “I am”. We have experienced this so many times when others doubt we can rise and become better.
How sad these past days we have seen how some people have been so mean especially with younger and newer leaders who have risen against the threats of COVID-19, shooting down their efforts, even to the point of maligning and even threatening them. It is as if they are the only “anointed ones” with whom God can work with.
Second is the attitude of the parents of the man born blind: betrayers are the worst kind of artificially blind people. Like the parents of the man born blind, they refused to vouch for his identity and healing for fears of being banned from temple worship.
Ouch! for us in the church with our “holier-than-thou-attitude” especially with those closest with us like family members and friends. Like Judas Iscariot, sometimes those supposed to be dearest to us are blinded by money, power, and fame that they also betray and dump us.
Where has all the love gone for one another, for the country?
Lastly, there are those supposed to be learned ones but unfortunately blinded simply by lack of faith in God like those Pharisees who refused to believe the man born blind’s story of healing as well as to recognize Jesus as the Christ.
Observe the attitudes of the Pharisees who claimed to know “this man, Jesus, is a sinner” because he healed on a Sabbath while the man born blind retorted “I do not know (Jesus) but how come he had healed me?”
What a tragic comedy! It is the root of the mess we are into today of so many learned men and women pretending to know so much but totally incompetent and ignorant of the realities going on, who do not care at all with the plight of the masses!
Both the whole world and our country are in deep darkness today with so many blind leaders and followers alike. Let us heed St. Paul’s reminder not to be blinded, to stop blaming others and to start confronting ourselves in the light of Jesus Christ.
“Take no part in fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.”
Rejoice for an enlightened Sunday and new week for everyone despite COVID-19. Amen.
Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 06 December 2019
Advent and Lent are two beautiful seasons in our Church calendar that prepare us for the great feasts of Christmas and Easter, respectively. Both have violet as motif though Advent is supposed to have a more bluish hue to distinguish it from Lent’s penitential character.
They both invite us to “look forward” into that future glory of Jesus Christ when he comes again at the end of time to establish “new heaven and new earth” where peace would finally reign, removing all sufferings and pains, wiping away all our tears to fill us with perfect joy.
On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; and out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the Lord, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.
Advent is renewed relationships
More than the promise of a new order of things in the Second Coming of Christ, Advent invites us also to look forward into renewed relationships with God through others.
Jesus Christ comes first in our hearts, his new manger. Unfortunately, we seem to have forgotten Jesus, remembering only his birthday and its trimmings. Fanned by social media, people are going crazy as early as August with their own Christmas countdown with those memes of Jose Mari Chan poised to sing his popular “Christmas in Our hearts”, forgetting its beautiful message of opening our hearts to Jesus through one another.
How sad that more than ever, people are so excited with Christmas for the wrong reasons like gifts and money, parties and vacations but not Jesus himself.
Advent invites us to “actively wait” Christ’s coming by renewing our relationships with our family and friends in every here and now of our daily living.
As Jesus passed by, two blind men followed him, crying out, “Son of David, have pity on us!” When he entered the house, the blind men approached him and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I can do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they said to him. Then he touched their eyes… and their eyes were opened.
Matthew 9:27-29, 30
Need to remove our “blindness”
Advent is a season to remove our blindness to Jesus present in us and in every person we meet. Our gospel today tells us a short story of Christ’s healing of two blind men with a twist of humor.
According to St. Matthew, the two blind men kept following Jesus after teaching a crowd, begging him to restore their sight.
How they were able to follow Jesus, your guess is as wild as mine… but, most funny is how they followed Jesus home to finally heal them!
Go figure it out. How did it happen if both men were blind, following Jesus every step of the way into his home?
But they both teach us a valuable lesson not only for this Advent but for everyday living: of the need to remove our blindness so we may see Christ coming to us day in, day out.
How sad when most of us have eyes but cannot see or even refuse to see Jesus Christ coming to us personally and among other people especially our family and friends, among the ordinary and usual people we meet everyday in our lives.
Last Tuesday amid heavy rains and winds of Supertyphoon “Tisoy”, two elderly couples in the parish requested for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick.
After hearing their confessions, anointing them with Oil, and giving them the Holy Communion, I decided to stay longer when I found out they live by themselves despite having six children living in the vicinity with their many apos!
Making things worst for the couple are the two children living abroad: one in the States have totally cut ties with them without any communication in 15 years while the other living Down Under refusing to help them in their medical needs.
The way we live and what we hope
I have been told the elderly couple I have visited were not really that “good parents” and neighbors as well. But, I explained to everyone after my visitation that is not important, nor the issue at hand.
What matters most is who would take care or look after these two elderly people, an arthritic father and a mother stricken with stroke? Must we allow ourselves to be blinded by past sins and hurts and pains that we fail to see Christ coming in the present?
Yes, this is easier said than done but, in this life, we only have two choices to make, either we become better or bitter. Make the right and better choice always!
Last Sunday I told my congregation that the way we live dictates our hope.
Those who strive in life to do what is good, to become better in whatever form are those who truly hope. And truly love because they believe in the future, they look forward to something better if not in this life, maybe after.
But those who do nothing in this life, those who feel resigned, “enjoying” their miseries in life are the ones who do not hope. And surely do not love at all for they see only death and destruction, nothing to look forward to. They do not mind hurting even killing others because they believe there is no future at all.
Indeed, as TIME Magazine’s Lance Morrow wrote in 1991, the opposite of love is not really evil but hopelessness. Very true.
As we end this first week of Advent moving closer to Christmas, let us pray for the grace of Jesus Christ to heal us of our many blindness in life so we may see him anew in us and in others too. A blessed weekend to you!
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXX-B, 28 October 2018
Jeremiah 31:7-9///Hebrews 5:1-6///Mark 10:46-52
After my Mass last Sunday evening, a friend sent me a text message about their janitor who had committed suicide at the top floor of their new school building that afternoon. She had sought my opinion a few weeks ago about that janitor suffering from depression, and later brought him to a professional for evaluation and counselling by personally paying for it. But his condition deteriorated until he hanged himself that Sunday afternoon. What is very disturbing with the suicide story is the seeming lack of support for the victim by their school officials. And, as if to rub salt on his wounds, an HR officer of the school went to see the janitor at their home Friday before the suicide to serve his termination paper after going on AWOL for several weeks. It seemed to be the final straw that hit the camel’s back, so to speak, that the poor janitor had totally lost all hopes in life that led to his tragic end Sunday afternoon. My friend was very sad, deeply pained – and rightly so! – as it happened in their Catholic school run by religious priests and brothers. Suicides do happen especially these days and there is no need to blame or pin on anybody, but to hear stories of neglect and lack of concern is another thing. One life is always too many to lose in senseless deaths like suicide. As I prayed over today’s gospel, I cannot resist seeing in that school janitor the blind Bartimaeus, begging and shouting for attention, seeking compassion but alas, many in the crowd were so blind that they ignored him, except maybe Jesus, who knows might be passing by that Sunday afternoon and stopped for another lost soul in our modern Jericho.
As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizeable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, he is calling you.” He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. (Mk.10:46-52)
Last Sunday we reflected how Jesus wanted us to be radical in following Him by going back to the roots (radix in Latin) of our discipleship which is His Cross of suffering and death. To be radical disciples of Jesus, we also reflected of the need to subvert or overturn our secular ideas of leadership based on power and position by imitating Christ’s kind of loving service that is always hidden in humility. Today’s gospel is more than a story of the healing of Bartimaeus but also of responding to Jesus’ call for us to remove our different kinds of blindness that prevent us from closely following Him on the road to Jerusalem. And the first step healing our blindness is deepening our faith in Jesus as the Christ. Recall that the journey of Jesus back to Jerusalem started at Caesarea Philippi last month when He asked the fundamental question every disciple must personally answer, “who do you say that I am?” (Mk.8:29)
Bartimaeus was physically blind but it was very clear with him that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the “Son of David” who would save Israel. Despite his blindness, Bartimaeus “saw” in Jesus through the many stories he must have heard about Him that He is the fulfillment of God’s promise that Jeremiah prophesied in our first reading, “the Lord shall deliver Israel and bring her back from exile, gathering them all especially the blind and the lame, consoling them and guiding them to brooks of water, on a level road, so that none shall stumble.” (Jer.31:7-9) His physical disability did not hinder Bartimaeus in growing in faith, “seeing” God as a loving Father who looks after His children especially the sick like him, healing and consoling them that he shouted “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” Observe that despite his being a blind beggar, Bartimaeus neither asked for his sight nor for any money or material thing except for God Himself. When he told Jesus that he wanted to see, it was actually a plea for deeper faith in God! Contrast this with the request of the “seeing” Twelve who were all blinded with ambitions, always debating who among them is the greatest, always seeing selves but not God and others.
In my 20 years of priesthood, I have realized that most people who come for help are more in need of spiritual things like the warmth of friendship, a pair of listening ears for their many burdens with some sprinklings of humor, a lot of affirmation, prayers and compassion. Faith in God always leads to faith with others who are also looking for someone to encourage and guide them to grow and mature in that faith. In our modern Jericho of today, may we share Jesus to the many Bartimaeus longing for that warm and loving human face who can recognize and smile at them, pat their shoulders, and soothe their souls by accompanying them in their journey in life that is often filled with many pains and hurts. Let us not be blinded with life’s many pursuits where there are no real winners that later in life would fill us with many regrets that make us wish to have loved and smiled more, have been more forgiving, kinder or crazier and funnier.
Being healed of our blindness to mature in deep faith in Christ is a long process. This is why Jesus is always passing by, calling us in spite of our blindness for He knows so well our weaknesses. He is willing to stop to heal us so we could regain our sight, asking us with the same question He had asked Bartimaeus and the brothers James and John last week, “What do you want me to do for you?” Like Bartimaeus, we can only answer that question truthfully if we are willing to leave the roadside to follow Jesus on the middle of the road that is always filled with danger and difficulties. Like Bartimaeus, we can only answer that question truthfully if we can throw aside our cloaks, to strip ourselves naked of the many false securities we rely on that hamper us in our journey to Jerusalem. Trust only in Jesus the Christ like Bartimaeus, following Him every Sunday in the Eucharist where He, as our High Priest (second reading) gives us His Body and Blood to restore our sight and strength in this journey. Amen. A blessed Sunday to you!Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022. Email: email@example.com
*Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, sunset in Dubai, October 2018. Used with permission.