Any World (That I’m Welcome To) by Steely Dan (1975)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 November 2021
Photo by author, Singapore, 2018.

Please suspend any judgment yet for our choice of music this Sunday: I have waited so long for this inspiration to come in my prayers since we started this blog on music linked with the gospel.

Yes, I have always been a big fan – a Danhead – of Steely Dan since my elementary days in the mid-70’s and thanks to YouTube and the internet, the more I have come to love their music now that I am a priest!

Though I must confess that I have never learned nor fully understood their lyrics until now, I have always been faithfully in love with their music that is brusque and sophisticated at the same time yet charming and mysterious.

Just Google the meaning of Steely Dan, the band is essentially the duo of the late Walter Becker and Donald Fagen whose ability to gather the best musicians in itself is a stroke of genius.

Next to prayers, Steely Dan music has been my best antidote against all the blues, worries and fears since this pandemic began last year. And when burdens are so heavy that I feel so down, this is the Steely Dan tune I liked most at this time as it spoke so well exactly how I would always feel:

If I had my way
I would move to another lifetime
I’d quit my job
Ride the train through the misty nighttime
I’ll be ready when my feet touch ground
Wherever I come down
And if the folks will have me
Then they’ll have me

Any world that I’m welcome to
Is better than the one I come from

From their album Katy Lied released in 1975, Any World (That I’m Welcome To) speaks so well of our longing to go to another world where everything fits us right — the kind of feeling we tend to have when our plans do not happen, when everything seems to be wrong and out of order.

Like all their songs, Any World is loaded with philosophical musings by Becker and Fagen that words could not sufficiently express and that is why they always have to improvise and innovate in their music and instrumentations that sound so sublime, filled with enigma.

But, where is Jesus Christ and our celebration today of Christ the King in this music which many of my elders used to frown when I was growing up (and discerning my vocation)?

The inspiration came to me while praying on the first reading, on the “vision” of the prophet Daniel of the “Son of man” or Savior God sent to save us, Jesus Christ. Instantly, I remembered the last stanza of this song:

I think I’ll go to the park
Watch the children playing
Perhaps I’ll find in my head
What my heart is saying
A vision of a child returning
A kingdom where the sky is burning
Honey I will be there
Yes I’ll be there

Any world that I’m welcome to
Is better than the one I come from

And when we try visualize the gospel from John of the trial of Jesus before Pilate, the more we wish we are in any world where we are welcomed to! How ironic when we continue to put God on trial, always questioning him for all our woes, doubting his love and presence, his kingship, his very person in Jesus Christ (https://lordmychef.com/2021/11/20/jesus-truly-our-king/).

And that is where I find the genius and “spirituality” of Becker and Fagen: their music like Any World not only tells us of our deep longings but also at the same time of our convictions that there is something better, something good coming despite all the problems and darkness we have in life.

Yes, it will be pushing too hard to speak of faith and religion with Steely Dan music but, as I have cautioned you at the start, suspend any judgment and get the feel of Becker and Fagen in the second stanza of this great song:

I can hear your words
When you speak of what you are and have seen
I can see your hand
Reaching out through a shining daydream
Where the days and nights are not the same
Captured happy in a picture frame
Honey I will be there
Yes I’ll be there

Any world that I’m welcome to
Is better than the one I come from

Who else can understand us so well, who can see everything in us and most of all would be there? That must be Jesus, truly our King who died for us to make this a better world for us!

Have a blessed Sunday!

*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.

From YouTube.com.

Jesus, truly our King

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus, King of the Universe, 21 November 2021
Daniel 7:13-14 ><]]]]'> Revelation 1:5-8 ><]]]]'> John 18:33-37
Photo by GMA-7’s Mr. Raffy Tima, 07 November 2021.

We now come to the final Sunday of our liturgical calendar, leading us to our “new year” next Sunday with the Season of Advent. See how we in the Church begin and end every liturgical year: in the four Sundays of Advent we prepare the coming of Jesus the “King of kings” and now we close the year with the Solemnity of Christ the King.

But despite this emphasis of our celebrations on the kingship of Jesus, many people still refuse to recognize him as King while more others are not clear yet of his kind of kingship. Until now, the same scene of Jesus being tried by Pilate continues to happen when we put Christ on trial, questioning him if he were truly a king.

Pilate said to Jesus, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?” Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom does not belong to this world…”

John 18:33-36
“Ecce Homo” painting by Murillo from commons.wikimedia.org.

So many times in life, we keep asking God with many questions but we cannot take his answers. Instead of being contented with what he tells us, we even feel slighted when it is God who wishes to clarify our questions.

Jesus asked Pilate whether his question was really his own or due to others’ perception because to recognize Jesus as King is ultimately to recognize his very person as the Son of God, true God and true man who became like us so we may become like him.

Every Sunday this year, Mark (and John for six weeks) step by step presented to us like an unfolding the identity of Jesus who “spoke with authority” unlike the scribes and priests of his time, mighty in power and in deeds who could command the sea and the winds, heal the sick and bring back to life the dead. This Sunday, all questions by the disciples and the people “who is this man” are answered with finality by Jesus himself.

Photo by author, Chapel of St. John at Cana, Galilee, 2019.

Evidently in our readings and in our own lives, we have experienced Jesus always in control, truly a king in total command especially in hopeless situations like when there was a great crowd with just a handful of bread or when they were caught in a violent storm in the middle of the sea.

Like the Prophet Daniel and the beloved disciple John in the first two readings, we need to have their conviction in God’s very person first.

Daniel lived at the time of severe trials when King Antiochus of Greece invaded Israel, desecrated the Temple of Jerusalem, and killed so many Jews who refused to worship idols and eat pork. It was the topic last week’s daily first readings from the Book of Maccabees.

Despite those very difficult times, Daniel saw in his vision his very conviction of the coming of God’s Messiah called “Son of man” – the title Jesus adopted top himself – who would deliver Israel from their enemies with his “everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away; his kingship shall not be destroyed” (Dn. 7:14).

In a similar way, John expressed his conviction and faith in God through Jesus Christ in his vision of the Lord’s “coming amid the clouds…even those who pierced him”, calling him “the Alpha and the Omega, the one who and who was and who is to come, the almighty” (Rev.1:7, 8).

In both visions by the prophets who not only saw and spoke the words of God but most of all, lived out his very words that they made God’s will happened, there is no doubt of the kingship of Jesus Christ as the God of history, its origin and final destination. Both Daniel and John were convinced of the very person of God, of the One who has the final say in this life through Jesus Christ and whose powers reign supreme from the past to the present and into the future.

And so, never lose hope in life and its various aspects, from the simplest to the most complex. There is nothing that God cannot prevail upon for he got us all in his hands. Most of all, Jesus had triumphed over death and sin. Let us have that faith and conviction in him.

But there is still something deeper in that trial of Jesus by Pilate we also repeat in our own time: it reveals not only the tensions about the spiritual and material realms, of the kingdom of God and of the kingdom of men but also of our own self-identity.

So Pilate said to him, “Then you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

John 18:37
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

At the crux of the trial of Jesus – then and now – is man’s usurpation of power as “king” of the world, as captain of his ship and master of his fate, of his obsession to break free from God, crowning himself as the king of the world. It is a question that boils down to issues with our own identity.

Notice the “irritation” of Pilate with the question of Jesus, trying to separate and distance himself from Jesus, as if he was different, not one of them but immediately in the course of their conversation, Pilate himself would conclude that “then, you are a king” – a self indictment to himself that also answered his question to Jesus!

Here is the irony, the twist in our pursuit to assert our very selves as the one in charge in life, in this world like Pilate when we fall into our own traps against God. The more we run away from him, the more we separate ourselves from him and refuse to do anything with him, eventually we swallow our own pride before God, confessing that indeed, he is the Boss, the one in charge.

And that is the truth, something inherent in us, something we cannot shrug off and deny.

Jesus is our King because he has made us into his kingdom, the very reason he was born and came into the world, to testify to this truth.

Truth in the bible means the path to follow. And that is who Jesus is, the way because he is the truth and the life (Jn.4:16). Without him, we are nothing. And the path he shows us is the path of the Cross which he had repeatedly explained to us these last two months.

“Losing one’s head/self in prayer”, photo by GMA7 News Ms. JJ Jimeno, 2019.

In this Solemnity of Christ the King, Jesus reminds us of this basic truth we always evade, of how he invites us to elevate or “level up” our lives and existence in him through the Cross. The sooner we accept and embrace his Cross, the sooner we experience his kingship and great power over our lives.

The main stumbling block why people cannot accept or are confused that Jesus Christ is our King is our refusal to accept or denial of the path of the Cross of Jesus. Power in the world is always equated with force and prestige, in the ability to dominate and subdue others.

How amazing, how wonderful to see our almighty and powerful King took the path of powerlessness to show us his immense power. Let it be a reminder to each one of us to imitate and follow that path. Most of all, to never lose hope especially at this time when so many fake kings and wannabe kings abound, making all promises without having proven anything at all and worst, lacking the moral integrity to lead.

It is now in our very hands, if we are truly the followers of Christ the King that “we make his kingdom come and his will be done here on earth like in heaven” by taking the decisive steps to witness his Cross and sufferings by standing and abiding by his very truth. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

From inquirer.net,20 August 2021.

Beloved children of God led by the Good Shepherd

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday In Easter, Good Shepherd Sunday and 
World Day of Prayer for Vocations, 25 April 2021
Acts 4:8-12  ><)))">  1 John 3:1-2  ><)))">  John 10:11-18

After listening to the Easter stories by John and Luke these past three weeks, we are now initiated into the implications of Christ’s Resurrection as the Father’s beloved children belonging to him led by Jesus our Good Shepherd.

Jesus said:
"I am the good shepherd,
and I know mine and mine know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father; 
and I will lay down my life for the sheep."
(John 10:14-15)
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, March 2021.

Image of shepherd pasturing the weak

Since Easter we have been reflecting on Jesus as our Lord and Savior who comes as our invisible guest in almost every aspect of our lives especially in the Holy Eucharist where he appears, speaks and shares meal with us despite the lockdowns due to COVID-19 pandemic.

In our country where the sheep is only beginning to be known as an excellent food, better than pork and beef especially Abes’s lamb adobo, the image of the shepherd is hardly known, even irrelevant for many especially for those in urban areas.

But, it is important that we try to bridge this gap even a little to appreciate and understand Jesus Christ’s words this Sunday being the Good Shepherd.

One very important aspect we have to keep in mind with the imagery of a shepherd in the Near East region where Israel is located is its symbolism of the relationship between the king and his subjects. Pasturing sheep was clearly an image of the task of every king in the region in ancient times not only in Israel but even in the pagan kingdoms of Babylonia, Assyria, and Sumer. This is the reason we find books in the Old Testament teeming with many references to God as the true king and shepherd of Israel, taking care of the people, leading them in green pastures and clear waters.

When the kings including the priests of Israel abused their roles, forgetting their mission to pasture especially the weak and the poor as they turned to pagan gods like Baal, God became so angry with them that he vowed to come himself to shepherd his flock fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ.

This decadence of the image of the shepherd continued in the time of Christ when shepherds were looked down and typecast as thieves and trouble-makers who belonged to the lowest level of the poor who could not even afford to attend temple worship due to their poverty.

Here we find the stage perfectly set for Jesus to restore and fulfill this degeneration of the beautiful and noble image of the shepherd while teaching after his healing of the man born blind that created a very big stir among peoples and temple authorities at that time in Jerusalem.


Knowing and belonging are interrelated:  
one knows because he/she owns like when we claim things as ours.  
When we possess, we know because we have.  
But, Jesus is speaking here not of owning and taking control an object or any material thing.  
Jesus and the Father know each other as they belong to each other as one 
in a perfect relationship but never because they "own" nor "possess" one another.

Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, Malolos Cathedral, 12 June 2019.

Knowing God, belonging to God

When Jesus declared “I am the good shepherd”, notice that he goes beyond simile: he did not say “I am like a good shepherd” but declares emphatically, repeating thrice the words “I am the good shepherd” – twice in verse 11, and again in verse 14.

His knowledge of the sheep is not from casual nor in-depth observations and study of the sheep but from a totally different and transcendent order when he declared, “I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father”.

Here, Jesus is clearly re-establishing our lost relationship with God as our Father and we his children that is emphasized in our second reading, “Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are” (1Jn.3:1).

Unlike the monarchs of the world, Christ our King is the Good Shepherd because his relationship with us is based on love and concern especially for the weak and the lowly as the Father had intended since the beginning! Jesus is the good shepherd because his is a relationship of unity in God as our Father.

Knowing implies relationship because it connotes belonging.

Knowing and belonging are interrelated: one knows because he/she owns like when we claim things as ours. When we possess, we know because we have. But, Jesus is speaking here not of owning and taking control an object or any material thing. Jesus and the Father knows each other as they belong to each other as one in a perfect relationship but never because they “own” nor “possess” one another.

To illustrate, we belong to our parents, we belong to a church or a community, we belong to an organization. There is always a degree of knowledge in every belonging not because we are possessed or owned in the same way we own our house, our car, or any gadget for that matter. Owning, possessing or having persons and even pets are of higher degree of knowing and belonging, of something deeper about invisible links that tie us with someone we believe “belongs” to us.

Is it not funny that sometimes we claim how our possessions also seem to be like persons that try to get to know whoever is using it as in “nangingilala” wherein if somebody borrows our car or any thing, sometimes they do not function well? And we say, maybe because the car or the thing did not know who’s driving or using it!

Pope Francis last year mentioned a very beautiful trait of St. Joseph that speaks so well about this very positive kind of “possession”, of knowing and belonging like his relationship with Jesus Christ and Mary. The Pope described it as St. Joseph’s being “a father in the shadows”.

In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way… Being a father entails introducing children to life and reality. Not holding them back, being overprotective or possessive, but rather making them capable of deciding for themselves, enjoying freedom and exploring new possibilities. Perhaps for this reason, Joseph is traditionally called a “most chaste” father. That title is not simply a sign of affection, but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness. Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Pope Francis, “Patris Corde” (08 December 2020), #7

What a beautiful way of describing this sense of knowing and belonging – like St. Joseph and very much like Jesus our Good Shepherd!

See that Jesus never forces us into being one with him nor in following him. He simply calls us, inviting us to follow him, to be one with him. That is why we heard him also telling us today that he has “other sheep that do not belong to this fold” that he must lead and care too.

Jesus is the shadow of the Father who leads us back to him as his beloved children. He does not coerce us nor demands us even though he “owns” us as his sheep. In his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus had shown us how he had become the foundation, the cornerstone we have always rejected in many instances in our lives now pasturing us back to greener pastures.

To know and to belong in the light of Jesus as the Good Shepherd is for us to regard one another as a family, as a brother and a sister we love and trust, allowing them to be free and faithful to God and one another instead of manipulating people like what some parents do to their children or dictators in the government and military.


Knowing and belonging like the Good Shepherd 
is less of controls and more of trust with one another 
because you see them as brothers and sisters in Christ 
perfectly expressed in the Community Pantry dictum, 
"magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan" 
(give whatever you can, take only what you need).

Knowing and belonging like the Good Shepherd is less of controls and more of trust with one another because you see them as brothers and sisters in Christ perfectly expressed in the Community Pantry dictum, “magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan” (give whatever you can, take only what you need).

What Ms. Ana Patricia Non and her followers did was become like Jesus the Good Shepherd when she said this community pantry is “not about charity but more of mutuality like helping the needy” which is about seeing each other as a brother and a sister belonging to one family under God our Father. Charity happens where there is first a relationship of persons respecting one another.

No wonder, she had perfectly called her effort as “community pantry” because every home has a pantry where everyone goes when hungry. And what is more, her community pantry has become a steady source of kindness and tenderness we have missed so much during this pandemic!

How beautiful that a shepherdess from Maginhawa Street led us to realize that we are one big family – brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ and beloved children of the loving and merciful Father in heaven.

May this be the start of a beautiful journey for our country when we see more our belonging to one nation, one country we collectively “own” and therefore, we must ensure its bright future by seeing each other in the light of Christ our Good Shepherd – not us possessions to be manipulated or even sold for personal interests alone.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Posted by Jean Palma on Facebook, 18 April 2021 with the caption: “All these community pantries in four days, and counting. What a powerful movement.” #CommunityPantry

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.