Pagbabalik-loob, pagpapaloob sa kalooban ng Diyos

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Kapistahan ng Pagbabalik-loob ni San Pablo, Ika-25 ng Enero 2022
Gawa ng mga Apostol 22:3-16  ><}}}*> + <*{{{><  Marcos 16:15-18
Larawan mula sa en.holyordersofststephen.org ipinapakita pagkamatay ng unang martir ng Simbahan si San Esteban habang pinapanood ni Saul na noo’y taga-usig ng mga Kristiyano habang napakita naman mula sa langit ang Panginoong Jesu-Kristo.

“Kalooban ng Diyos.”  Ito ang sa tuwina palagi nating inaalam sapagkat batid nating ito ang pinakamabuti para sa atin.  Subalit kadalasan tayo ay nabibigo, naguguluhan kung ano ang kalooban ng Diyos dahil madalas akala natin para itong tanong na isang pindot ay malalaman kaagad ang sagot tulad ng sa Google.

Kauna-unahang hinihingi sa atin upang mabatid ang kalooban ng Diyos ang tayo muna ay “pumaloob sa Diyos” na ibig sabihi’y dapat nasa loob tayo ng Diyos. Kung ikaw ay nasa labas ng Diyos, tiyak ikaw ay lumayo sa Kanya dahil sa kasalanan; kaya, pagbabalik-loob sa Kanya ang kinakailangan.

Ibig kong simulan dito ang pagninilay sa Kapistahan ng Pagbabagong-buhay ni San Pablo Apostol na ating ipinagdiriwang sa araw na ito. Ito ang upisyal na salin mula sa Inggles ng “Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul the Apostle” na tila may kulang.

Ganito kasi iyon: Tama rin namang sabihing “pagbabagong-buhay” dahil bawat conversion wika nga ay pagbabago tulad ng na-convert sa ibang relihiyon o sa ibang anyo o gamit. Ngunit sa bawat pagbabago, mayroong higit na malalim na nababago na hindi namang ibig sabihin ay nag-iiba o nagiging different.

Kasi iyong sinasabing conversion ni San Pablo o ng sino pa mang tao ay hindi naman pagbabago ng pagkatao kung tutuusin; sa bawat conversion ng isang makasalanan o masamang tao, hindi naman nababago yaong tao talaga kungdi kanyang puso na siyang naroon sa kanyang kalooban.

Ibig bang sabihin ang pagbabagong buhay ay yaong dating masayahin o palatawa magiging malungkutin o iyakin? Yaong dating mapusok at malakas ang loob magiging duwag? O yaong pagbigla-bigla at padaskol-daskol ay magiging makupad at mabagal sa pagdedesisyon?

Sa pagbabagong-buhay ng sino man tulad ni San Pablo, hindi nababago ang pagkatao: mapusok pa rin si San Pablo, palaban at matapang nang tawagin at sumunod kay Kristo. Hindi naman nabago kanyang karakter pero nabago kanyang puso na nahilig sa kalooban ng Diyos pagkaraan. Iyong kanyang dating kapusukan at katapangan sa pag-uusig ng mga Kristiyano ay nalihis naman sa pagpapahayag ng Mabuting Balita ni Hesus sa mga Hentil at kapwa niya Judio.

Kaya naman higit na malalim at makahulugang isalin ang conversion ng sino man sa katagang “pagbabalik-loob”. Bawat nagkakasala ay lumalayo ang loob mula sa Diyos na ibig sabihin ay “ayaw sa Diyos” gaya ng ating pakahulugan tuwing sinasabing “malayo ang loob”.

Kapag nagsisi at tumalikod sa kasalanan ang isang tao, hindi lamang siya nagbabagong-buhay o nag-iiba ng pamumuhay kungdi higit sa lahat, siya ay “nagbabalik-loob” sa Diyos. Tatlong bagay ang itinuturo sa ating ni San Pablo sa kanyang karanasan ng pagbabalik-loob sa Diyos.  

Larawan mula sa en.wikipedia.org ni San Pablo sa harapan ng Basilica ni San Pablo sa Roma, Italya.

Una, bawat pagbabalik-loob ay isang personal na pagtawag at paanyaya mula sa Panginoong Hesus.  Batay sa salaysay ni San Pablo, “Nasubasob ako sa lupa, at narinig ko ang isang tinig sa akin, ‘Saulo, Saulo!’”(Gawa 22:7).  

Araw-araw inaanyayahan tayo ni Hesus na magbalik-loob sa Kanya. 

Iyong mabatid lamang natin sa ating kalooban na mali ang ating ginagawa o kaya tayo ay kabahan at matakot sa isang masamang gawain, iyon na ang tinig ni Hesus na tumatawag sa atin katulad kay San Pablo. 

Huwag na nating hintayin pa ang isang “dramatic” o “bonggang” pagkakataon wika nga upang pakinggan ang tawag ng Panginoon katulad nang mahulog sa kanyang kabayo si San Pablo.  Hindi ibig ng Diyos na sumadsad pa ang ating buhay sa kasamaan at mawala na ang lahat ng pagkakataong makabalik pa sa Kanya.            

Ikalawa, madalas kapag tayo tinawag ng Diyos na magbalik-loob sa Kanya ay hindi kaagad maliwanag ang lahat sa atin kaya kailangan natin ng taga-akay: “Nabulag ako dahil sa kaningningan ng liwanag na iyon, kaya’t ako’y inakay na lamang ng mga kasama ko papasok sa Damaso” (Gawa 22:11). 

Larawan kuha ni G. Jim Marpa, 2019.

At hindi lamang basta taga-akay ang kailangan natin sa bawat pagbabalik-loob kungdi isang mahusay na gabay katulad ni Ananias na “isang taong may takot sa Diyos, tumutupad sa Kautusan, at iginagalang ng mga Judiong naninirahan sa Damasco” (Gawa 22:12). 

Si Ananias ang ginamit ng Diyos upang mapagaling ang pagkabulag ni San Pablo at malahad sa kanya ang kalooban ng Diyos na mapalaganap ang Mabuting Balita.

Ang mahusay na gabay ay yaong pumapawi at nagpapagaling sa ating mga pagkabulag sa katotohanan ng Diyos sa buhay na ito. Wika mismo ni Hesus, maaring bang maging taga-akay ng mga bulag ang isa pang kapwa bulag?

Magkaroon ng isang mabuting taga-akay o spiritual director na hindi namang dapat pari o madre lamang kungdi yaong isang mabuting pastol na kalakbay at kaagapay sa ating spiritual journey.

Ikatlo, bawat tawag sa pagbabalik-loob sa Diyos ay palaging paanyayang pumasok sa isang komunyon o kaisahan kay Hesus at Kanyang pamayanan o komunidad.  Ito ang magandang bahagi ng pagtawag kay San Pablo:  nagpakilala si Jesus bilang kanyang inuusig na Kristiyano, “Saulo, Saulo!  Bakit mo ako pinag-uusig?  Ako’y si Jesus na taga-Nazaret na iyong pinag-uusig” (Gawa 22:7,8)

Ang totoong pagbabalik-loob o pagbabagong-buhay ay yaong hindi lamang makita ang sarili kungdi makita ang kanyang kaisahan kay Hesus at sa kapwa-tao.  Walang kabuluhan ang ano mang pagpapakabuti ng sarili na nakahiwalay sa Diyos at sa kapwa.  Hindi kabutihan kungdi kapalaluan ang walang ibang makita kungdi sarili.  


Madaling sabihin ang mga bagay na ito at sadyang mahirap gawin.  Subalit kung ating susuriin ang naging buhay ni San Pablo, hindi lamang minsanang pangyayari ang magbalik-loob sa Diyos.

Isang mahabang proseso ang kanyang pinagdaanan sa kanyang pagbabalik-loob o pagbabagong-buhay; katulad natin marahil siya ma’y nagkakasala minsan-minsan sa Panginoon. 

Larawan kuha ng may-akda, 2019.

Ang mahalaga ay ang patuloy niyang pagninilay at pananalangin, ang pagsisikap niyang “pumaloob sa Diyos” upang mabatid at maisakatuparan ang Kanyang Banal na Kalooban na “Humayo kayo sa buong sanlibutan at ipangaral ninyo sa lahat ang Mabuting Balita” (Mc.16:15).  

Kaya, huwag manghinawa sakaling mabagal ang iyong “pagbabagong-buhay”; minsa’y akala mo lamang wala namang nababago at masama ka pa rin.

Hindi totoo iyan dahil batid ni Hesus, nakikita ni Hesus ang pagsisikap natin mula sa kaloob-looban natin hindi pa man tayo pumapaloob sa Kanya.

Ang totoo kasi, palagi namang nasa loob natin si Hesus, kahit anong pilit nating lumayo sa Kanya. Amen.

Christmas is reflecting Jesus, the Light of the world

Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Day 1, 16 December 2021
Isaiah 56:1-3, 6-8   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   John 5:33-36
Photo by author at San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

The Parol or lantern is a uniquely Filipino sign and reminder of Christmas. When we were in elementary school, we used to make our own parol with colorful papel de japon as part of our subject “work education”. The most beautiful parol submitted was usually the one hanged above the Belen like that star pointing to the Child Jesus born in Bethlehem at the first Christmas.

And that is the truth about the beautiful and colorful parol – a sign leading to Jesus Christ like John the Baptist.

“He was a burning and shining lamp, and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light. But I have testimony greater than John’s. The works that the Father gave me to accomplish, these works that I perform testify on my behalf that the Father has sent me.”

John 5:35-36

Since the second and third Sundays of Advent, we have been introduced to the person and mission of John the Baptist. As we begin our nine-day novena to Christmas with our Simbang Gabi, we are reminded again of that important role we have in becoming another John who not only prepares the way of the Lord but must also be very sign of Christ’s presence.

All routes lead to churches every December 16, a beautiful sight to behold with so many devotees trying to fulfill their vows of completing the Simbang Gabi for so many reasons, from thanksgiving to favors granted and for more wishes for the coming year!

But, like other novenas, Simbang Gabi in itself will not make one a better or holier person. It takes a lot of prayer and hard work on our part to be like John the Baptist, a parol “burning and shining” pointing to Jesus who had come 2000 years ago, who comes daily in our lives, and will come again at the end of time.

In our gospel we heard Jesus praising John who did a wonderful job preparing the people for his coming because in his very life, they have found hope and inspiration to strive in what is good and just. In fact, the people felt as if John was already the Messiah they were waiting for!

It was very clear to John that he was not the Messiah, that he was merely the Precursor of the Lord, not even worthy to untie his sandals. This is what we must pray for in every Simbang Gabi, specially at this time of the pandemic: that we beam more of the light of Jesus who is like the sun while we are the moon. What we share is the Light itself – Jesus Christ – not our own light that can sometimes be misleading and not really that bright at all.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 08 December 2021.

To reflect the light of Jesus Christ is to be like him, good and kind, just and merciful, exactly what we heard from the first reading which is a call to personal conversion; we cannot convert others to Jesus unless they see first we are converted in Christ.

Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just… All who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold on to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.

Isaiah 56:1, 6

No matter how good or “holy” as we can be, we are not the Light; our mission is to bring people closer to Jesus and be “conformed to his image” (Rom. 8:29).

How sad these days when “credit-grabbing” has become a hobby and a national past-time not only among those in power but even with everybody else specially those in social media trying to draw attention to themselves to earn precious statistics to be known as “influencers”.

This is our second Christmas in the pandemic: last year was more difficult than this year and we have so much to be thankful to God in tremendously blessing us since last year. We are still alive, many still have their jobs with steady income, others have started to pick up the pieces of their lives but moving on personally, spiritually, emotionally and even financially. Kids still go to school no matter how difficult online classes may be.

We have so many things to thank God this Christmas – first among them are the many John the Baptists who were like a “burning and shining lamp” to us, guiding us and inspiring us to move on with life amid the darkness and gloom of this pandemic

Yes, Christmas this year like last year is still difficult, so unlike the other Christmases we have experienced in the past. Perhaps the only other worst Christmas than we ever had in 2020 and 2021 were the Christmasses experienced by our parents and grandparents during the Japanese occupation at World War II. Ours pale in comparison with those wartime years.

During this Simbang Gabi, let us ask ourselves how much have we changed and matured in our experience of Christmas since the start of the pandemic last year? Do we now have Jesus in our hearts or, are we back to our old selves of having that “Christmas rush” for material things, forgetting Jesus Christ is Christmas himself?

Let the light of Christ burn and shine in you! Amen.

Photo by author at San Fernando, Pampanga, 18 November 2021.

Transfiguration in time of corona

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord, 06 August 2021
Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14  ><}}}'>  2 Peter 1:16-19  ><}}}'>  Mark 9:2-10
A 1311 painting of the Transfiguration by Italian artist Duccio di Buoninsegna from commons.wikimedia.org.
God our loving Father,
as we celebrate today the Feast
of your Son Jesus Christ's Transfiguration,
we come to you amid the same darkness
that enveloped them that night atop Mount Tabor
as we enter another series of lockdown
in this COVID-19 pandemic that has shaken
faith in you among many of us.
Like the apostles before his Transfiguration,
we too are wondering the meaning of Christ's  
Passion and Death when he is your Son, the Messiah.
"How could he suffer and die?", they must have wondered.
In the same manner, we too wonder, could not stop
the questions coming from deep within us why are you
allowing these sufferings and trials, Lord?
Have you been angry with us, Lord, that these happen?
Jesus took Peter, James,
and John and led them up a high
mountain apart by themselves.
And he was transfigured before them,
and his clothes became dazzling white,
such as no fuller on earth could bleach
them... Then a cloud came, casting
a shadow over them; then from the
cloud came a voice, "This is my beloved
Son.  Listen to him." (Mark 9:2-3, 7)
Like Peter during the Transfiguration,
we do not know what we are saying to you, Lord;
whether we are filled with joy or burdened
with sorrow, we speak without thinking much
even if you know what is in our hearts.
Open our hearts, dear God, to always
listen to your Son by remaining with him
in his journey on the path to his Cross.
Moreover, we possess
the prophetic message that is
altogether reliable.  You will do well
to be attentive to it, as to a lamp
 shining in a dark place, until day dawns
and the morning star rises
in your hearts. (2 Peter 1:19) 
Bring us back to the path of faith in you, Father;
despite our dismal progress or lack of faith this year due to 
the many trials and difficulties by this pandemic, 
open our hearts to let us go back to you in Jesus, 
listening to him intently when all is dark and even dead 
because for as long as we return to you, sin and failures
become means for us to be changed and transformed -
transfigured when we rise in Jesus Christ's Resurrection.
Amen.

Seeking, awaiting the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Disciple of Jesus, 22 July 2021
Song of Songs 3:1-4   ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'> ><]]]]'>   John 20:1-2, 11-18
 
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.
I wonder, dearest Lord Jesus,
why did you appear to Mary Magdalene
on that Easter morning
but not to Peter and John
who also rushed to the scene?
Mary stayed outside 
the tomb weeping.
And as she wept,
she bent over into the tomb
and saw two angels in white
sitting there, one at the head
and one at the feet where 
the Body of Jesus had been.
(John 20:11-12)
It was the second time 
Mary Magdalene had come 
to your tomb that early morning;
when she found it empty,
she rushed to Peter;
when they found it still empty,
John believed and left with Peter
but Mary remained and stayed,
weeping, hoping to find 
your body, dearest Lord. 
And the angels said to her,
"Woman, why are you weeping?"
She said to them,
"they have taken my Lord,
and I don't know whey they laid him."
When she had said this,
she turned around
and saw Jesus there, 
but did not know it was Jesus.
Jesus said to her, "Woman,
why are you weeping? 
Whom are you looking for?"
She thought it was the gardener
and said to him, "Sir, if you carried him
away, tell me where you laid him,
and I will take him."  Jesus said to her,
"Mary!"  She turned and said to him
in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means
Teacher.  (John 20:13-16)
O sweet Jesus,
forgive us 
when we fail to see you,
when we miss you coming
as we never stay long
to await you in the empty tombs
of our sadness and failures,
broken dreams and 
disappointments and sickness;
teach us to stay longer,
to grieve in you, pour out in you
our hurts and aches,
pains and sorrows;
like that Bride in the
Song of Songs
let us be intense in seeking you
by patiently awaiting you,
remaining in you that we may also say,
"I had hardly left them when I found him
whom my heart loves." (Song of Songs 3:4)
When love among friends
and one another is real,
surely our beloved would appear
only on a higher, different level
of recognition unlike before;
this is the lesson we can glean
from St. Mary Magdalene
when Jesus called her by name,
asking her to touch him not
because at Easter
we have been raised higher
in Christ, much beloved than before.
Let us answer your call,
dear Lord, to proclaim your gospel to all
despite the troubles we have had before.
Grant us the courage
to change our ways and follow you
like St. Mary Magdalene
who had remained pristine and clean
assuring every sinner with a saintly future.  Amen.


Praying for our continuous conversion

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fourth Week of Easter, 26 April 2021
Acts 11:1-18   ><)))'> ><)))'> ><)))'>   John 10:1-10
Parish of St. Joseph in Baras, Rizal, January 2021.

Thank you very much, dearest God our Almighty Father in answering our prayer last Friday for more conversions among us, especially those in power in the government and the military who kept on maligning the movement on community pantry. Some of them have finally accepted the beauty and the truth about community pantries.

Today we pray, O God, for the continuous conversion of those among us in the Church, especially our shepherds of soul, bishops and priests, religious and sisters, and most specially the lay people who comprise the majority of Christian faithful.

Vatican II had clearly called for “Ecclesia semper reformanda” or “The Church must be constantly renewed”, that we must read the signs of the times, and always be open to the leading and promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Your first reading today shows us this important turning point in our Church history when mission to the gentiles began with Peter sharing meals and then baptized the whole household of the Roman centurion named Cornelius. The “circumcised believers” or Jewish converts to Christianity criticized Peter for entering the homes and sharing meal with uncircumcised pagans who were later baptized to be added to the growing number of followers of Jesus Christ.

Peter began and explained it to them step by step, 
saying, "As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them 
as it had upon us at the beginning... 
If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us 
when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, 
who was I to be able to hinder God?"
When they heard this, 
they stopped objecting and glorified God,
saying, "God has then granted life-giving
repentance to the Gentiles too."
(Acts 11:4, 15, 17-18)

Open our ears and our hearts, Lord, so we may hear you speaking to us.

Most of all, grant us the courage to make known to others your voice, your will even if it may be disturbing and uncomfortable to others, especially our fellow leaders and shepherds of the flock.

Forgive us, dear Jesus, when there are times when “we do not realize what you are trying to tell us” (Jn.10:6) because we are so preoccupied with our very own ideas and traditions being challenged by changing times and shifting views.

Forgive us, most of all, Lord Jesus, when we your shepherds hold on to positions and power, thinking more of prestige and wealth that we have become the biggest obstacle to new developments and growth in the Church and among Christians. Amen.

Praying for more conversions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Third Week of Easter, 23 April 2021
Acts 9:1-20   ><)))'>  ><)))">  ><)))'>   John 6:52-59
Photo by Dr. Yanga’s Colleges, Inc. in their “community pantry” in Bocaue, Bulacan, 21 April 2021.

Praise and glory and thanksgiving to you, God our loving Father in heaven for this amazing movement sweeping our country called “community pantry” started by a young lady in a quiet neighborhood last week in Quezon City.

Your ways, O God, are indeed strange, filled with so many extraordinary turn of events.

Who would have thought how this community pantry will awaken the whole nation to suddenly see one another as brother and sister, sharing according to one’s abilities and taking according to one’s needs that for over a week, we have never ran out of food with a lot of smiles and tenderness that delight the hearts and souls of everyone?!

You are so amazing, O God that I feel like Jesus your Son rejoicing while filled with the Holy Spirit, giving you praise, Father, “for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike” (Lk.10:21).

Full of confidence in your power, I believe you can still win over the hearts of many of our generals and government officials to be converted like St. Paul on the road to Damascus to persecute Christians; how ironic, dear God, are the similarities of that story with how our government and military officials malign the people behind the community pantry movement!

Saul, still breathing murderous threats against the disciples of the Lord,
went to the high priest and asked him for letters to synagogues in Damascus,
that, if he should find any men or women who belonged to the Way,
he might bring them back to Jerusalem in chains.
On his journey, as he was nearing Damascus, 
a light from the sky suddenly flashed around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
"Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?"
The reply came, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.
Now get up and go into the city and you will be told what you must do."
(Acts 9:1-7)

Please, Lord, despite the malicious words some government and military officials have said about the people behind the community pantry movement, we still believe they can still be converted like what happened at EDSA in 1986.

Come, Jesus our Lord and Savior, blind us with your light of truth and humility so we may imbibe the true meaning of the Eucharist which is more than the sacramental partaking of your Body and Blood but, most of all, meeting and being one with you always in our daily lives, becoming the very food for others like you.

We pray also most specially for the well-being of Ms. Ana Patricia Non and her followers. Bless them and keep them, O Lord, and may they continue to inspire others in seeing everyone as a brother and sister in you. Amen.

Easter is turning towards God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday within the Easter Octave, 08 April 2021
Acts 3:11-26   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 24:35-48
From Facebook, 04 April 2021: “There is an urgency to announce the Joy, the joy of the Risen Lord.”
So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem... 
The disciples of Jesus recounted 
what had taken place along the way, 
and how they had come to recognize him in the breaking of bread.  
While they were still speaking about this, 
he stood in their midst and said to them, 
"Peace be with you."  
Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.  
And he said to them, 
"Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer 
and rise from the dead on the third day 
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, 
would be preached in his name to all the nations, 
beginning from Jerusalem.  
You are witnesses of these things."  
(Luke 24:33,35-36,45-48) 

O dearest Jesus, help us find our way back to you! Let us turn around, turn towards you, go back to you in Jerusalem to meet you with the other disciples. Help us to repent and be converted as Peter preached in the first reading so our sins may be wiped away to see and experience you (Acts 3:19).

Cast away our doubts and fears of coming to you, of experiencing you, of seeing you because all you want is for us to be free from the bondage of sins and guilt, of the past pains and hurts so we may experience Easter – which is the fulfillment and fullness of life in you, Lord Jesus.

Strengthen our faith through the words of the scriptures that attest everything written about you is true and are meant for our own good as children of the Father.

May we keep in mind that Easter is not an ending, Lord.

As your “witnesses” to your passion, death, and resurrection, remind us of this great mission to spread your gifts of peace and forgiveness to everyone as we strive to establish your Kingdom here on earth by making life more humane especially in this time of the pandemic.

Give us patience and perseverance to go through the process of daily conversion so that your Easter may continue in us and lead to our genuine reconciliation with everyone to the Father by removing our many divisions, fears and hostilities that prevent us from caring and loving each other. Amen.

Questions of Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday within the Octave of Easter, 06 April 2021
Acts 2:36-41  ><)))*>  +++  <*(((><  John 20:11-18   
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.

Recent events of sufferings due to a surge in COVID-19 infections and the difficulties this lockdown had put on our people have somehow “cut us to the heart” like the listeners of Peter in Jerusalem after the Pentecost, God our loving Father.

Yes, we feel being cut to the heart, so moved by your presence in Christ despite this crisis in the pandemic.

Help us, Lord, answer the two questions posed by your words this Tuesday within the Easter Octave that can help us experience you more amid this unholy events happening in our history.

"What are we to do, my brothers?" 
(Acts 2:37)

First of all, Lord, we pray for our government officials who are until now clueless on what really to do during this pandemic. We pray for their conversion, to get down from their ivory towers and admit their mistakes rather than cover up with so many lies and inanities.

Give us the courage to examine too what we are really doing to overcome this crisis. So many times, we have been hiding and running away from our responsibilities in our home, in the school, in the office and even in the church! Let us confront our many fears to start trusting you and take the big leap forward learning and working on how to help others.

Teach us to be grateful for the many blessings you have given us even in this time of crisis and therefore find purpose in our lives to share the good news of Easter with others especially the less fortunate.

 "Woman, why are you weeping?"
(John 20:13, 15)

Secondly, Lord, let us live in the present moment so we may recognize and find you amid all the darkness that surround us these days. Twice your friend Mary Magdalene was asked with the same question, first by the angels and then by you, dear Jesus: “Woman, why are you weeping?”

Why did she not recognize you, Lord, considering you are the best of friends?

Sometimes, Lord, we are not like her your friend: we do not live in the present moment, always in the past that is why we cannot find you. We cannot find nor recognize you because we are stuck in your old ways and looks, in our old ways of relating with you, forgetting you have passed over from the past into the new present.

If we shall be able to live in the present moment, we shall stop weeping and start rejoicing finding you amid all the darkness and uncertainties of this pandemic. Give us the grace, dear Jesus to level up in our relating with you and with others by first meeting you in your words, in prayer, and in the Eucharist. Amen.

Photo by Bro. Cristian Pasion, National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela, 03 April 2021.

Lent is for softening the heart

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Third Week in Lent, 11 March 2021
Jeremiah 7:23-28   ><}}}*> + <*{{{><   Luke 11:14-23
Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, March 2020.

O God our loving Father in heaven, how great indeed is your love and patience with us your children. Despite our sinfulness that hardened our hearts, you never stopped sending us prophets even your Son Jesus Christ to call us and return to you.

Why still be bothered with us so afflicted with a hardness of the heart and stiffened necks?

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed. They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts and turned their backs, not their faces, to me… Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed; they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers… Say to them: This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the Lord, its God, or take correction. Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.

Jeremiah 7:24, 26, 28

Thank you, dear God, for never getting tired with us that we join the psalmist in praying, “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Please do not allow our hearts to remain hardened because that is when it leaves no room nor space to listen nor repent and turn back to you again.

Soften our hearts or better, take away our stony hearts as you have promised your other prophet Ezekiel, so we may open ourselves to Jesus and listen to his good news of salvation instead of always seeing evil and Satan in everything, even in Christ like in the gospel today!

In this season of Lent, let us be persevering like you in exhausting all means to listen and discern every voice we hear. Soften our hearts, Lord, so we may choose you always no matter how difficult it may be for truly, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Lk.11:23).

Amen.

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

Be surprised this Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week I, 24 February 2021
Jonah 3:1-10     <*(((><   +   ><)))*>     Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 26 February 2020.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father, in making Lent a season of surprises just like in our readings today. Continue to surprise us with your love and mercy, with your movements in our lives and in our time. Open our hearts and minds at the many possibilities of good things happening even in the midst of great evil and sufferings.

Forgive us when we lose hope, when we refuse to be surprised with our pessimism and cynicism like Jonah who refused to obey you in going to Nineveh to warn the pagans and sinners there of your coming wrath lest they repent and change their ways.

Jonah began his journey through the city, and had gone but a single day’s walk announcing, “Forty days more and Nineveh shall be destroyed,” when the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth. When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.

Jonah 3:4, 10

It is about time that we reflect and examine also this Lent our attitudes with other people, especially those different from us not only in ways and looks but also in beliefs, that there is always hope in everyone to change and become a better person.

Even your Son Jesus Christ had told us how we would be surprised someday with the kinds of people entering your kingdom in heaven. Let us not be surprised in the end in the wrong sense like that warning by Jesus:

While still more people gathered in the crowd, Jesus said to them, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah. Just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. At the judgment the queen of the south will rise with the men of this generation and she will condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and there is something greater than Solomon here. At the judgment the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation and condemn it, because at the preaching of Jonah they repented, and there is something greater that Jonah here.”

Luke 11:29-32

Cleanse us of our prejudices and biases, Lord, and open our sense of wonder and awe to continue to be surprised of your presence and coming, of your love and mercy in us and among others. Amen.