Seeing with the heart of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, 24 June 2022
Ezekiel 34;11-16 ><}}}}*> Romans 5:5-11 ><}}}}*> Luke 15:3-7
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Novitiate and Spirituality Center, Novaliches, Quezon City, 2017.

The three solemnities we have been celebrating these past three weeks in the resumption of Ordinary Time after the great Season of Easter – the Blessed Trinity, the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ and now the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus are meant to invite us to share in the mysteries of life and love of God himself.

Two Sundays ago we learned in the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that God is not just a Being but most of all a Person relating within himself and with us humans despite our weaknesses and limitations, even sinfulness. And there lies the greatness of God who chose to share his life with us and love us even if we worth nothing at all by sending us his Son Jesus Christ who gave us himself, Body and Blood to be shared so that we too may be like him to give ourselves to others.

Today’s Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus celebrates the love of God revealed by Christ who died so that we may have life in him.

Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy.

Luke 15:3-5
From todayscatholic.org.

The Sacred Heart captures the beautiful imagery of the good shepherd who leaves the “ninety-nine sheep in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it” (Lk.15:4) because he first of all sees with his heart, not with his mind.

It is the image of Jesus Christ’s loving sacrifice for us all by dying on the Cross, offering us forgiveness of sins and redemption as Paul explained in the second reading that we have become beloved children of God, forgiven sinners for each one of us is of great worth in the eyes of God that are actually his very heart.

That is how God sees us. Always with his heart, the Sacred Heart of Jesus that even a single soul, a single sheep getting lost has to be searched and saved because every one is of great worth and value!

Anyone who had searched for a missing loved one or ever a pet had experienced the more difficult and more dangerous situation of searching than actually being lost. When we search for a missing beloved like that shepherd in the parable, it is as if the whole world is on our shoulders with our heart beating so wild while racing in our thoughts are all the dangers and worst scenarios that may happen. There are times that the one searching for the missing person or sheep or any pet is the one put at more risks than the missing person or animal.

But, when the beloved is found or like in the parable of Jesus, instead of punishing the errant sheep, the good shepherd tenderly carries it on his shoulders to bring it home full of joy. That is all because of the love, tenderness, and joy flowing from the Sacred Heart that we celebrate today.

When we see with our hearts, that is when we begin to see the goodness and beauty of everyone that our intellect cannot accomplish. Many times when we use our minds, we see people and the world as so dark and so evil. But, if we have hearts that can see, we are surprised that there are more goodness, more beauty in this world than what we hear and see in the news and social media.

Like God who knows everything about us – our sins, our past, even our thoughts – but he chooses to see with his heart because he is love himself who loves us truly.

Life and love are the most common yet most profound and deep mysteries we have as persons. And the more we dwell into its beauty and majesty, the more we are absorbed into the mystery of God, a mystery we are able to grasp little by little of how God fills us with his life and love (https://lordmychef.com/2022/06/11/the-holy-trinity-our-life-and-love/).

See how these feelings and experience of being alive, of being loved and so in love are difficult to explain and even understand but so very true that we dwell in them and even keep them to relish and enjoy often in our hearts. Let the love of Christ which is the fire that purifies and cleanses our hearts unify our intellect, will and emotion to enables us to see our oneness in ourselves before God; as we see more of our goodness, then we begin to see our oneness with others or those around us that our love is translated concretely into our loving service to others like what Ezekiel had prophesied and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The heart is the wholeness of the person not just concerned with feelings but translating these emotions into actions. Like that prophecy by Ezekiel fulfilled in Christ, God did not merely feel nor long to be one with his people but he did make it happen in Jesus who came to search and rescue us, heal and care for us so that we may be whole again and eventually find fullness of life in him by dying on the Cross.

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so will I tend my sheep. I will rescue them from every place where they were scattered when it was cloudy and dark. The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal but the sleek and the strong I will destroy, shepherding them rightly.

Ezekiel 34:11-12, 16
Photo by author, 2017.

In this age of “practical atheism” when we live as if there is no God according to St. John Paul II under a “dictatorship of relativism” put forth by Pope emeritus Benedict XVI when there are no more absolute values and morality, the Solemnity of the Most Sacred Heart invites us to allow ourselves to be wrapped in the many mysteries of life and love to see again the wonder and joy of our humanness found in God.

Contrary to what most people believe or perceive, God is not controlling nor competing with us in life. In fact, in Jesus Christ, God is living with us, guiding us and leading us to fullness of life that the world has always tried but failed to give us with its many lures of power, wealth and fame now so intense with the new technologies available that have left us more empty and more lost than ever.

COVID-19 had taught us that it is not the mind but the heart that matters most in life, that we need more of love than reasons and logic, more of giving than receiving, and most of all, more of courage that comes from the heart to go out to the middle of the street to walk with Jesus in loving service and self-giving to his flock than by merely standing idle as bystanders.

Jesus meek and humble of heart, make our hearts like thine! Amen.

Lent is seeing Jesus in everyone

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the First Week of Lent, 07 March 2022
Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18  <*(((>< + ><)))*>  Matthew 25:31-46
Photo by author, the Holy Land, 2019.
On this blessed Monday,
I join dear God our Father
the psalmist in proclaiming
“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life” 
for it summarizes the two long
readings for today:  your instruction
to Moses telling us to “be holy, for I, 
the Lord your God, am holy (Lev.19:2)” 
and Jesus reminding us that
“whatever you did/did not do 
for one of these least brothers of mine, 
you did/did not do for me (Mt.25:40,45).”  
Beginning this Lent as we slowly
begin to go back to some semblance 
of normalcy in our lives, help us 
recover our lost identity of being
your beloved children, of being 
the dwelling-place of your Holy Spirit
who animates us to do what is good,
avoid what is evil, always seeing Jesus
Christ in everyone, especially those
silently suffering among us like the poor
and the sick.
Help us, Lord Jesus, to learn again 
that it is our nature to share and 
give life in you who is our Life; 
how wonderful it would be that on
judgment day, we shall all be surprised, 
asking “when were you Lord hungry 
we gave you something to eat, 
when were you Lord…?” in doing good
to everyone who turns out to be your
very presence!
The blessed ones, the holy ones 
like the saints are never bothered 
to think of anything else upon seeing 
the poor and suffering except to love 
and practice charity like St. Francis 
of Assisi who taught his disciples 
to preach always Jesus Christ, 
speaking only when necessary.  
Make us holy, like you,
O God, who is our life
present in everyone 
we meet.  Amen.

Advent is humility before God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, 14 December 2021
Zephaniah 3:1-2, 9-13   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Matthew 21:28-32
Photo by Gelo Nicolas Carpio, 2020.
God our loving Father,
teach us humility and simplicity
in life in this time of the year 
when temptations are so strong,
even irresistible to be proud
and powerful and sufficient in
things we need that we forget you
in the people around us.
As we celebrate the memorial of
St. John of the Cross who was so 
eloquent both in his words and in deeds, 
help us to choose always in finding the 
path of Jesus Christ on the Cross which
for him is the "highest wisdom attainable 
in this life".

The gate that gives entry into these riches of his wisdom is the cross; because it is a narrow gate, while many seek the joys that can be gained through it, it is given to few to desire to pass through it.

St. John of the Cross, Office of Readings, 14 December
In both the first reading and
the gospel today, your words
assure us, dear God, that it is never
too late to start listening to you and
to follow your Son Jesus Christ in
his life of simplicity and dedication
to the well-being of others.
Teach us to be "a people humble
and lowly" before you, O God, who
"shall do no wrong and speak no lies,
who would pasture and couch your 
flocks with none to disturb them" 
(Zephaniah 3:12-13).  Amen.

Christ the King: never imposing, always inviting

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Jesus, King of the Universe, 22 November 2020
Ezekiel 14:11-12, 15-17  >><)))*>  1Corinthians 15:20-26, 28  >><)))*>  Matthew 25:31-46
Photo by author, Chapel of the Graduate School of Theology, ICMAS, Guiguinto, Bulacan, 11 November 2020.

We Filipinos have a saying – sometimes taken as a riddle (bugtong) – that goes, “Utos ng hari, hindi mababali” that literally means the command of the king is unbreakable, always absolute.

Kings exist primarily to unite and help the people especially the weak, the suffering, and the voiceless; hence, kings are portrayed with strong bodies as well as sound minds to render justice. But, as we all know, power corrupts people that once kings like politicians have tasted the sweet elixir of authority and fame, everyone and everything is forgotten except one’s self interests.

And that has always been how kingship is seen based on power and supremacy, always imposing and domineering, insisting in their “power trips” that lead to divisions among peoples even nations that eventually, instead of serving others, they become the ones being served.

Exactly the opposite with the kingship of Jesus Christ that is not based on human power and authority but on the loving service of others, especially the weak and the marginalized. It was a radical move, of moving back to the very roots of kingship by God himself as prophesied by Ezekiel in the first reading. No wonder in Israel, kingship is closely seen in the imagery of shepherding.

Thus says the Lord God: I myself will look after and tend my sheep. As a shepherd tends his flock when he finds himself among his scattered sheep, so I will tend my sheep. I will rescue them… I will pasture them… I will give them rest… The lost I will seek out, the strayed I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, the sick I will heal…

Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 16

This is the essence of our celebration today of the Solemnity of Christ the King: Jesus is in the other and within us, the Emmanuel or “God-is-with-us” that the greatest honor we can give him as our King is to lovingly serve him in one another. See our many images in art of him suffering and dying than regal as a king because Jesus is truly one with us in our most difficult and trying times. That is why he is the only one truly a king!

“Ecce Homo” by Murillo, from wikipediacommons.com.

Christ the King grounds us to God and others again

When Pope Pius XI instituted this feast in 1925, the world was going through a lot of changes in every sphere of human life – for better and for worst – following the many advances in science and technology as well as in thoughts and ideas.

This continues to this day in our own age with its own twists that are more pernicious with everyone trying to reign supreme as kings and queens in life no longer with a scepter that was like a “magic wand” to get everything done but with the cellphones that can either build or destroy anyone with the slightest touch of ones’s fingers!

How sad that as the world had shrunken into a global community interconnected by modern means of communications invented to bring us all together, we have actually grown more apart from each other, polarizing us even further with every color of the rainbow signifying so many groups, agenda, and beliefs.

Worst of all, with these modern means of communications, we have become more focused with gadgets and things than with persons.

What an irony that we can be so close with those miles apart from us yet we hardly notice nor even recognize the persons seated next to us. Long before COVID-19, we have always been socially distant from each other, have always failed to appreciate or even look at the warmth and beauty of the human face now covered with a mask because we have always been “washing our hands”, escaping from our responsibilities as our brothers and sisters’ keepers.

See how in our readings this Sunday Jesus Christ is reminding us to go back to our solid grounding in God who dwells in each one of us.

Jesus said to his disciples: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them from one another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Matthew 25:31-32
Photo by John Bonding, Architecture&Design Magazine, 25 May 2019 via Facebook.

I have always loved this photo above that speaks perfectly well of our situation today, of how most of us are missing so much in life when everything is “media-ted” that we no longer touch ground as if we are “floating on air” with everything reduced to a mere show or “palabas” that must be caught, kept, and shared in Instagrams instead of being enjoyed in our collective memories.

More tragic is the fact how most of these are often fake and not true at all, leaving many of us empty, even alienated that have resulted in many instances of depressions and suicides.

What an irony when everybody is claiming to be their own king or queen and master, of being free from religions and God, the more they have become unfree and empty! The more our egos and self-interests reign, the more chaotic we have become with peace and fulfillment most elusive.

When Jesus is our only King reigning in our hearts and relationships, that is when we find fulfillment in our lives as we discover our rootedness in God and interconnectedness with others.

When Jesus spoke of separating the goats and the sheep, we are reminded of how these animals can sometimes be indistinguishable — exactly like when we fail to recognize our loved ones and persons nearest to us.

And true enough, even Jesus has become indistinguishable among us right in our homes and most of all, among the suffering people like the hungry and thirsty, the strangers and homeless, the sick, the poor we have stripped not only of their clothings but also of their dignity as persons, and those imprisoned.

Recall what Jesus told Pilate at his trial, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world to testify to the truth…” (Jn.18:37) that “God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him” (1Jn.4:16).

All this comes to full circle today as Jesus tells us, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt.25:40) and “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me” (Mt.25:45).

Jesus will surely come again

As we have reflected these past two Sundays, Jesus is coming again at the end of time to judge us if we have been faithful and loving to him through others. He himself assures us of his return as he declared When the Son of Man comes in his glory” and not the conditional If the Son of Man comes”.

The key is not to know the when and how but to be vigilant, of being awake, always finding Jesus our king with the least among us which is the truest sense of kingship — never imposed on others but always recognized and imitated. In Filipino, “sinusunod, sinusundan at tinutularan; hindi nasusunod”.

St. Paul reminds us anew in the second reading how Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross had decisively won over sin and death; but, he is coming again to fully establish his kingship when he vanishes sin and death completely to pave the way for new heaven and new earth.

When he comes again, will anyone recognize him among the poor and suffering like the hungry and thirsty, the sick and imprisoned, the strangers and homeless, and the naked? May we all have the eyes of a child who sees God in everyone and everything! Amen.

A blessed Sunday to you all!

Photo by a parishioner of his son, Red Santiago, praying in our parish, November 2019.

Prayer in a time of “war”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, 14 July 2020
Isaiah 7:1-9 <*(((><< ] + [ >><)))*> Matthew 11:20-24
Fire at the Pandacan Church, 10 July 2020.

O God our Father, we are in a war.

A war between good and evil, between light and darkness, sanity and insanity.

It is a war long been raging within us that I fear must have reached a stalemate because of our indecision, of our indifference. Some battles may have been won but the war rages on because we have refused to make a gallant stand for you.

Banish our fears, assure us with your same words to King Ahaz of Judah when threatened with simultaneous attacks by his neighboring kingdoms:

Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands… Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!

Isaiah 7:4, 9

Sometimes, our faith waver especially at how things are now going on among us like divisions and confusions due to lack of clear leadership in government while many of us in the church are in disarray.

Make us realize that there is a day of reckoning for all our sins, for taking side with the enemies, for refusing to stand for what is true and just when Jesus Christ reproached Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum who refused to recognize his works of salvation when he came.

May we learn from the experience and lessons of St. Camillus de Lellis who was a soldier addicted to gambling but later converted to follow Jesus as a priest taking care of the sick, realizing the need for us to grow in holy charity. Amen.

At home with Mary our Mother

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Mary, Mother of the Church, 01 June 2020

Genesis 3:9-15.20 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 19:25-34

Mary Mother of the Church. From Google.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Today is a very crucial period in our life as a Church here in the country moving into transition from Enhanced Community Quarantine to the lower case of General Community Quarantine. Some businesses and industries are slowly being allowed to open and operate.

Except our churches.

Today our Church leaders are meeting with the government to continue their talks for the opening of our churches to allow the faithful to celebrate the Holy Mass as a community.

We pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten the minds and hearts of our officials in their meeting to see the importance of spiritual nourishment in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We pray for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary your Mother and our Mother too whom you have entrusted to your beloved disciple to care for us your Body here on earth.

Thank you very much Lord Jesus in giving us Mary your Mother to be our Mother too.

On this first day of the resumption of Ordinary Time, a day after Pentecost Sunday when we celebrated the coming of the Holy Spirit to launch the Church, we also offer this day in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of the Church.

Indeed, inasmuch as she had stayed by your side at the foot of the Cross, Mary has always been with us in our journey as your Mystical Body here on earth. She has always been home for us, taking care of us, looking after us, and reminding us of our mission in you.

Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

It is so unfortunate that we have always taken her granted.

Worst, some people have maligned and derided her important role in cooperating with all your plans for the Church.

May her charity and fidelity to you, Lord, inspire us to work further for the mission of the Church to make you present in the world now in pandemic, seeking the best ways to pick up the pieces and start anew their lives.

May the world be ready now to listen to the teachings of Mary your Mother to return to you and turn away from sins and evil. Amen.

Lent is sharing and giving life

40 Shades of Lent, Monday, Week I, 02 March 2020

Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18 +++ 0 +++ Matthew 25:31-46

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, Baguio City, 03 February 2020.

“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life.”

Responsorial Psalm

Today, Lord, I borrow your psalmist’s words for they summarize the two beautiful readings on this first Monday of Lent 2020.

Thank you for reminding us that we are your Holy Spirit’s indwelling, that we must be holy for you, O God, are holy (Lev.19:2).

Continue to fill us with your holiness so that we continue to do whatever is good to our brothers and sisters, especially the least among them for whatever we do to anyone, that we do also to you, dear Jesus (Mt.25:40, 45).

May your holy season of Lent remind us that it is our nature to share and give life because we have you Jesus in us.  That’s the implication of those like the sheep on your right side, Lord, who were surprised and could not believe asking “when were you Lord hungry we gave you something to eat, when were you Lord…?” 

When we let your Spirit of holiness animate us, that is when we are never bothered to think of anything else upon seeing the poor and suffering except to love, to practice charity. 

May our Lenten practices of fasting and abstinence, sacrifices and alms-giving empty us of our selves and be filled with you, sweet Jesus, the Word who became flesh to dwell in our hearts for you alone are Life and Spirit. 

Teach us to examine today our attitude towards everyone who may be unknown to us silently poor and suffering.  Let us reacquire that nature in us we fondly refer to as “second-nature” of being kind and charitable to everyone because he/she has you, Jesus, in him/her. 

That need not be difficult for us because in the first place, YOU, O Lord, is in us too!  Amen.