On living and courage

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 July 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A former classmate and friend from elementary school suddenly died of a heart attack last week. At his wake, everybody was saying of how they wish to die ahead of everybody just like Larry. “Mas gusto ko ako yung mauna” was the trending line of everyone’s conversation that there seemed a surge in courage with everyone bravely claiming readiness to die.

For me, it was like a déjà vu when suddenly it flashed to my mind our school discussions how we would prefer to die first than our parents. As kids, we were so afraid of living without parents that we deemed it better to be the first ones to die.

But, it did not mean we were not afraid of death nor of dying nor of living, too. We were just kids then.

Now that we have passed the half century mark of living, fast approaching the senior age, I think we know better the realities of life.

And of death.

On the surface, it seems that facing death and dying require super graces especially courage as we go into the threshold of the great unknown. But on deeper reflections, we realize that in dying, it could be really true that we have nothing to fear but fear itself because when we die, we don’t feel it anymore and would not even know it at all!

Death and dying can easily come to our minds when we are so hard pressed in life, when sufferings and pains are so unbearable that death wrongly becomes an escape, a cowardice than a courage no matter how hard others would romanticize it.


Yes, it takes a lot of courage to accept and face death 
but much more courage is needed to live than to die.

Yes, it takes a lot of courage to accept and face death but much more courage is needed to live than to die.

Living is different because it is filled with paradoxes unlike death that is clearly “the end” and the start of the great unknown, with or without God.

But for us believers, for those with faith in God, living in itself is already a tremendous grace to overcome all fears and difficulties of being alive than being dead.

More than ten years ago, I lost my best friend from high school to cancer. When he was first diagnosed, he cried a lot whenever we would visit him, clearly indicating his fears of dying. Six months after receiving intensive treatment from one of the best hospitals in the country, Gil finally accepted the inevitable after his doctors said his cancer cells were “so aggressive”.

On that final week of his life, I visited him thrice when I noticed a marked change in Gil as he would no longer cry, looking so calm and serene, so composed even in his manner of speaking. This time, I was the one who cried a lot whenever he spoke to me of his “habilin” or reminders upon his death. That is when I realized how God gives the courage needed to face death once the dying accepts it and surrenders one’s self to Him our Maker. That is when death becomes peaceful and a blessing too when the dying is able to make peace with everybody and with God almighty.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, June 2021.

When somebody dies, we cry not only because of the pain of separation. Deep inside us is the fear of living alone without them. That is why we need more courage to live than to die because when you die, you do not feel anymore.

The pain of death is more felt by those living than by those dying, especially those blessed to have prepared for it like my friend Gil as they already knew where they were going while those left behind are still at a loss for directions in life.

Living, facing life’s challenges requires tough courage. Real courage.

Our drive or will to live and survive shows the great amount of courage and strength we muster from deep within we never knew we even have at all! That is why after hurdling every challenge we faced in life, we wonder how we did it, how we made it.

From Facebook, May 2020.

That’s because of courage.

Congratulate yourself! You are good. You are doing well.

Those bruises and scars are badges of courage, medals of valor in fighting, in living this life that prepares us to fullness in heaven with God.

For as long as you feel pains and sufferings, hardships and difficulties… you are alive! Rejoice and celebrate life! Make the most of it. You can surely make it because you are alive.

And there lies the beauty and greatness of life – we are enormously blessed to be alive, blessed with courage to go on living because we are meant for something. We have a mission. Do not lose sight of that immense blessing.

When Jesus faced his death, it was not cowardice but courage because his dying was meant to lead us all to living fully in him. Jesus is life himself when he said “I am the resurrection and life” (John 11:25).

On the Cross, Jesus showed us the realities of life- of joys and pains, of sickness and health, of poverty and wealth, of light and darkness, most of all, of life and death in our daily dying to old self and rising to new life.

On the Cross, Jesus showed us that life is living in courage that comes from him to be like him: standing for what is true and good, for what is just and fair, and most of all, for loving another more than one’s self!


"The real test of courage is in living, not in dying", 
according to the the Italian playwright 
and poet Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803).  

“The real test of courage is in living, not in dying”, according to the the Italian playwright and poet Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803).

Stop wishing and praying for death for it will surely come.

At the moment, activate that courage in you and start living life to the fullest.

Coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life and vice-versa. For us to have the courage to face death when that time comes means to have the courage first of all in living. It is a grace always in our heart which is in Latin called “cor”, the root of the word courage itself, meaning “coming from the heart”.

Have the heart – and courage to see and experience the many joys and beauty of life waiting for you! Don’t miss them.

Photo from intentionalinspirations.com

Loving like St. Joseph in the time of pandemic

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16  +  Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22  +  Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
Photo by author of the site believed to be the workshop of St. Joseph in Nazareth, 2017.

Today’s celebration of the Solemnity of St. Joseph as most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a very special one being in the “Year of Saint Joseph” that began last December 8, 2020 until December 8, 2021 in commemoration of the 150th year anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s declaration of the beloved saint as Patron of the Universal Church.

In launching this Year of Saint Jospeh last year, Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart) how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.

The Holy Father explained that the “ordinary” people like those who kept our lives going especially during the lockdowns resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation” (Vatican News, 12 December 2020).

I really hope you can have time to read today this very short letter by Pope Francis who is a known devotee of Saint Joseph having popularized among us during his 2015 Papal Visit the image of “Sleeping Saint Joseph”.

In Patris Corde, Pope Francis gives us some helpful points on how we can love with the heart of God our Father like Saint Joseph during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these traits the Pope invites us to imitate from Saint Joseph is his “creative courage” in loving God and loving others.

If the first stage of all interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creative courage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.

Pope Francis, Patris Corde #5

A creative person is always someone who is deeply in love with another person or with one’s craft, art, career or whatever passion.

The most loving person is always the most creative like Saint Joseph who sought ways expressing his love for Mary and her child by deciding to silently divorce her as the gospel tells us.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Jospeh, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago of a mosaic at the San Padre Pio Shrine at Rotondo, Italy of the angel appearing to Saint Joseph in his dream.

Holiness is having creative courage like Saint Joseph.

Notice how the Pope’s description of Saint Joseph is not far from St. Matthew’s calling him a “righteous man” – a holy man – who obeys the Laws of God handed down to them by Moses, including their other traditions meant to keep them clean and pure before God.

Problem during that time is how people have lost sight of God and of others that they were so focused on the letters of the law than its spirit, becoming impersonal in the process as we have seen in instances when they would ask Jesus why he healed the sick even on sabbath day. Worst is when people brought to Jesus a woman caught committing adultery, reminding him of Moses’ instruction to stone her in public.

Such was the dilemma faced by Saint Joseph with Mary being pregnant with a child definitely not his!

In deciding to silently leave Mary, Saint Joseph expressed his righteousness or holiness wherein he showed the true interpretation of their Laws by upholding the dignity of every person, respecting life above all. Like Jesus Christ, Saint Joseph showed that real holiness is authentic love that is willing to sacrifice for the beloved by having the courage to be in pain in giving up or losing a beloved.

Here we find Saint Joseph was not only courageous in facing the painful truth about Mary having a baby not his but also very creative in the sense that because of his great love for the Blessed Virgin, he did not want her exposed to shame and public humiliation in allegedly breaking the seal of their betrothal.

Having courage is more than being able to do death-defying acts that is more on physical strength; courage is a spiritual virtue, a spiritual strength when we do extraordinary things because of higher ideals and values like the love of Jesus who offered us his life on the Cross.

Courage is from the Latin word “cor” for heart which is the seat of our being. And to have courage is to be true and loving that we have such expressions to speak from the heart, to listen to our heart, and to act from our heart when we dare to lose ourselves because of love.

Photo from Aleteia.org of “Let Mum Rest” image St. Joseph nursing the Infant Jesus while Mary sleeps, 2019.

A person who truly loves is always creative, 
finding ways in expressing one's love even sometimes 
it may be painful and difficult.

A “creatively courageous” person like Saint Joseph is someone so deeply in love with Mary and with God: after learning the circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, St. Matthew tells us “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Mt.1:24).

Saint Joseph’s love for Mary found ways to spare her all the pains and hurts that may result if found with a baby not his; but after learning the truth, the more we find him creatively courageous when he sought many ways to save Mother and Child from all harm and even death like bringing them to Egypt in the time of Herod.

See that when Saint Joseph accepted Mary, Jesus came forth to us while at the same time, when Saint Joseph accepted God through the angel as expression of his deep faith and love, he took Mary as wife.

And this is what Pope Francis further explains in Patris Corde that at the end of every account in which Saint Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up and takes Jesus and Mary who are the most precious treasure of our faith.

Taking Jesus and Mary like Saint Joseph as creative courage calls us Christians to always love the Church and in loving the Church, we love the poor for whom Jesus came and Mary identified herself with in her Magnificat which she sang after accepting the Annunciation by the Angel of Christ’s birth which we celebrate next week on March 25.

In this time of the pandemic, we are called to be creatively courageous in finding Jesus among those people too familiar with us as well as with those so different from us. Don’t you find it so funny that the people we always take for granted are those either so close to us like family or completely strangers?

Being creatively courageous in this time of the pandemic means being more sensitive with others especially in our words and actions like Saint Joseph.

I was wondering during prayers why did he not ask Mary about the truth of her pregnancy so that he would have been spared with all the thinking and praying? That is when I realized the value of Saint Joseph’s silence: he did not speak at all to Mary as a sign of his love and oneness with her who must have been into some difficulties too with the situation of being the Mother of Christ. sympathy.

In his silence, Saint Joseph expressed his complete trust in Mary and in God. And in his being silent, Saint Joseph was creatively courageous expressing aloud his tenderness and care for Mary and her Child, something we need so much in this time of the pandemic.

Let us pray to Saint Joseph in this time of social distancing that like him, we may have the creative courage in touching others with the love of God, especially those who are sick and suffering, those in difficult situations, and those forgotten by their families and friends and even by the society. Have a blessed Friday, everyone!

Saint Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church, pray for us!

Photo from Vatican News, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, 14 December 2020.

Being true collaborators of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, Bishops, 26 January 2021
2 Timothy 1:1-8    >><)))*>   +++   <*(((><<     Luke 10:1-9
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, sunrise at Natonin, Mountain Province after a devastating landslide in October 2018.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

A day after celebrating the feast of the conversion of your great Apostle Paul, we now remember his two collaborators and companions in fulfilling his mission from you, Timothy and Titus, trustworthy men who carried out so many of his works.

And so today, we pray Lord Jesus in your name to please send us collaborators in your mission, men and women who are trustworthy who share in your vision and mission, endeavors and responsibilities. Collaborators in you, Lord, who are willing and ready to serve the Gospel with generosity like Timothy and Titus who represented Paul in many circumstances far from easy.

Send us, dear Jesus, more workers in your field, collaborators in you with our bishops and priests, even with our leaders in government who shall think more of serving the people, thinking more of the welfare of others than one’s personal advantages like power and fame.

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. Go on your way; behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:2-3

What will happen to your people, Lord Jesus when your servants and collaborators become the wolves, unmindful of the needs of the people, forgetting their mission of proclaiming your Gospel, of celebrating your Holy Sacrifice of the Mass much needed these days?

What will happen to your people, Lord Jesus when your servants and collaborators become afraid of doing what is true and right, trying to please men and women than God, avoiding problems and difficulties?

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, Carmelite Monastery, the Holy Land, 2017.

“For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control … bear your share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from God.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7, 8

Help us follow, dear Jesus, your Apostle Paul’s recommendation to Titus, “I desire you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to apply to themselves to good deeds; these are excellent and profitable to men.”

May we be more committed to you, Jesus Christ than to anyone else, even to our selfish motives so that we may be rich in good deeds to open the doors of the world to you our Lord and Master. Amen.

Loving “with a Father’s heart” like St. Joseph

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-3 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II 
Friday, Advent Week III, 18 December 2020
Genesis 49:2, 8-10     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 1:1-17
Photo from Vatican News, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, 14 December 2020.

Today we continue the second part of Matthew’s genealogy that ended yesterday with a marked shift in its structure of begetting: “Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ” (Mt.1:15-16).

Matthew now fortifies this fact and conviction that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise to the Patriarchs, the Son of God who became human like us. See his solemn pronouncement about the coming of Jesus Christ:

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ cam about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Jospeh, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19

It is so timely that on this rare occasion when we reflect on Joseph’s role in the coming of Jesus Christ that Pope Francis recently declared December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021 as the “Year of Saint Joseph” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the beloved saint as Patron of the Universal Church with his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart).

A known devotee of Saint Joseph who popularized in 2015 during his visit to the country the image of the “Sleeping Saint Joseph”, Pope Francis said in writing Patris Corde how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.

The Holy Father explained that the “ordinary” people like those who kept our lives going especially during the lockdowns resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation” (Vatican News, 12 December 2020).

Let us reflect on two beautiful traits of St. Joseph that made him love Jesus and Mary with a father’s heart according to Pope Francis: creatively courageous and being in the shadows.

Photo from Vatican News, 12 December 2020.

Saint Joseph as a creatively courageous father

In describing Joseph as a “creatively courageous father”, Pope Francis showed us his deep devotion to this great saint described by Matthew as a “righteous man” or holy man who obeys the Laws of God.

Having courage is more than being able to do death-defying acts that is more on physical strength; courage is a spiritual virtue, a spiritual strength when we do extraordinary things because of higher ideals and values like love and gaining eternal life in Jesus Christ.

According to Pope Francis, “creative courage emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had” (Patris Corde, 5).

The word courage is from the Latin “cor” for heart which is the seat of our being. To have courage according to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen means “to speak from the heart, to listen to our heart, and to act from our heart” when we dare to lose ourselves because of love.

A creative person is always someone who is deeply in love with another person or with one’s craft, art, career or whatever passion. See how people so in love become so creative that they can write songs and poems, do wonderful works, and accomplish so many wonderful things.

A “creatively courageous” person like Saint Joseph is someone so deeply in love with Mary and with God: after learning the circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, Matthew tells us “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Mt.1:24).

Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

Matthew tells us how Saint Joseph from the very start has always been creatively courageous when he decided to quietly divorce Mary after learning of her pregnancy: here we find Saint Joseph not only very courageous to face the bitter truth about Mary having a baby not his but also very creative in the sense that because of his great love for her, he did not want her exposed to extreme shame and public humiliation in breaking the seal of their betrothal.

His love for Mary found ways to spare her all the pains and hurts that may result if found with a baby not his; but after learning the truth, the more we find him creatively courageous when Joseph found so many ways to save Mother and Child from all harm and even death.

See that when Joseph accepted Mary, Jesus came forth to us while at the same time, when Joseph accepted God through the angel as expression of his deep faith and love, he took Mary as wife.

And this is what Pope Francis further explains in Patris Corde that at the end of every account in which Saint Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up and takes Jesus and Mary who are the most precious treasure of our faith.

Taking Jesus and Mary like Saint Joseph as creatively courageous calls us Christians to always love the Church and the sacraments and charity, and most of all in loving the Church, we also love the poor for whom Jesus came and Mary identified herself with in her Magnificat.

In this time of the pandemic, we are called to creatively courageous in finding Jesus among those people too familiar with us and those so different from us because too often, they are the people we always take for granted, those too close to us and the strangers.

Being creatively courageous in this time of the pandemic means also being more sensitive with others especially in our words and actions that many times lack any sympathy or empathy with those living at the margins like the poor and the sick, those living alone, and those forgotten by families and by society.

Saint Joseph, a father in the shadows

I love the way Pope Francis started his Apostolic Letter about Saint Joseph because it is something very much alike with Matthew’s unique style in beginning his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus: the Holy Father began by citing how Joseph loved Jesus according to the gospels “WITH A FATHER’S HEART” written in all caps!

Pope Francis must be stressing to us these days of the need to have a father’s heart which is also rarely heard because most often, the heart is more associated with the mother. But that is what the world precisely needs now, a father’s heart like that of God our Father.

In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). And a shadow that follows his Son.

Pope Francis, Patris Corde, 7
Photo is painting on acrylic (48×96) by Bulakenyo artist Aris Bagtas called “Luklukan ng Karunungan” (Seat of Wisdom) displayed at the second floor of the Library of the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary at Guiguinto, Bulacan.  A lively and beautiful rendition by Aris of Mary teaching her Son Jesus Christ while at the background is Joseph looking at them.  Used with permission.

To be with a heart of the father like God’s is to be “most chaste” like Saint Joseph which the Holy Father said is more than 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

I am so glad that Pope Francis mentioned the need to be “most chaste” as opposite of possessiveness because there is an ongoing crisis in fatherhood among us these days. Not just to biological fathers but also to fathers in the other institutions especially the Church.

Are we not priests in deep trouble with chastity these days not only with the scourge of sexual scandals and misconduct this century but also in how we have been lording it over in our parishes that we have remained an institution seen more in terms of power and control that we have never evolved to Avery Dulles’ other models of the Church like a community of disciples?

Are we not also guilty in the Church like fathers in the family and other institutions who “possessed” those below them, totally forgetting it is the Lord’s vineyard, that we are His stewards tasked to lead our flock to growth and maturity when all we think of is our own prestige and popularity that Jesus Christ is forgotten and put to the sidelights because we feel so good, so great?

In this time of pandemic amid the many temptations of social media, we priests must pause before doing all those online projects to keep in mind that we are shadows of the fatherhood of God, that like Saint Joseph, it is best for us to work in silence and as much as possible be at the background because we remain the shadows of the Son.

Fatherhood in the real and Christian sense is being a shadow not only of God the Father but also of his Son, Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist, fathers must learn to decrease so that Jesus may increase.

Photo by author of the Chapel of St. Joseph in Nazareth (2017); below is the ancient site of his carpentry shop where Jesus grew up as a child.

Lately I have been dreaming of my late father due to so many problems coming my way. When people ask me about my vocation story, asking how it all started, I have always considered it all began with my dad. He never asked me to become a priest nor even taught me how to pray but I grew up seeing him pray daily before our altar before leaving for work and upon coming home. How I love waking up to the scent burning candles wafting through our home as he always lit candles at the altar and our grotto outside. It was from him that I learned that lesson I taught my students to have a rosary in the pocket so we may pray anywhere, any time.

The only other thing my dad taught me by personally telling me was to study hard so that we could be of service to the people and never a burden to the society.

I think that is the best thing any father can do — to form their children into another shadow of the Lord, not necessarily be like them.

A blessed day specially to all Fathers and dads!

Thank a woman today

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September 2020
1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31     || + ||     John 19:25-27
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, in giving us the Blessed Virgin Mary to be our Mother too, to join us and accompany us in this life journey especially when there are pains and sufferings like when she stood by you at the foot of the Cross on that Good Friday.

As we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, we remember also and pray for all the women in our lives, specially our mother and sisters, the wife of every spouse, our teachers, the nuns, and all those women who somehow “completed” our lives.

Because of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the word “woman” became so noble and wonderful again after it was marred by sin with the fall of the first woman, Eve.

But what is so striking with Mary and the word “woman” is how she was addressed in that word in the fourth gospel, beginning at the wedding feast at Cana (John 2:4) that comes to full circle at the foot of the cross.

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:26-27

Lord Jesus and Mother Mary, I pray for all the women of the world, especially for those who stood by their men and children in times of trials and sufferings.

There at your crucifixion where everything was so sad with the stark realities of human sufferings and death, Mary and the other women present gave some breath of life and hope to the scene.

Photo of painting from stswithuns.org.uk.

With those faithful women led by the Blessed Mother around you at the foot of the Cross, your Passion O Lord, had a peaceful and calming ending, leading to your joyful and glorious Resurrection.

Their love and devotion, and compassion remained intact before you, O Lord after you had died. Is this also the reason you first appeared to women too on Easter? Beautiful.

These are exactly the same things the many women in the world and in our lives do when our chips are down like during this pandemic.

It is always the women who bring out the extra jolts and sparks needed to restart our lives, to jumpstart us when we are all down and desperate. Like your Mother Mary, Lord, most women are our greatest sources of inner strength and courage, and faith to forge on in this life.

How sad that we often forget to thank them and worst, neglect to recognize their presence and dignity as persons. May we imitate you, dear Jesus that in your dying moments, you remembered to entrust your mother to your beloved disciple to look after her.

O dearest Mother Mary, our Lady of Sorrows, please pray for the women we love, the women we have forgotten, the women we have used and abused for their kindness to us; so many women are crying in pain alone, some of them have been mourning for a long time after losing a beloved child or husband, a friend and a sibling, parents and those dearest to them. Soothe their pains, our Lady of Sorrows, a great woman of faith, woman of calmness, a woman for everyone. Amen.

Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us!

Jesus is here, have no fear

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 21 June 2020
Jeremiah 20:10-13 ><)))*> Romans 5:12-15 ><)))*> Matthew 10:26-33
Photo by author at Pulilan, Bulacan, January 2020.

Finally, today we can truly feel the Ordinary Time as we celebrate Sunday in shades of green with a new sequence of readings from the gospel of St. Matthew who will guide us in our journey with Jesus this year until the Solemnity of Christ the King in November.

Set after the naming of the Twelve Apostles who were sent to search for the “lost sheep of Israel”, the Lord now warns them of persecutions and dangers; hence, today until the next two Sundays, Christ will encourage his disciples including us to take on the challenges of his mission, assuring us of his loving presence and protection.

Notice how the Lord tells us three times to be not afraid of the mission:

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one… And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna… So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:26, 28, 31
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The problem with our fears

Christ’s words today suit us so perfectly in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic made worst by the growing social unrests not only in our country but also elsewhere in the world that proves how the Lord’s mission remains unfulfilled in us.

Almost everywhere we hear reports of continued oppression of peoples in various forms of discrimination, disrespect and injustices.

But we do not need to look far to do our mission. We start with ourselves first — for we are the “lost sheep of Israel” in so many ways. All oppression and injustices going on around us are the reflections of what is within us that often result from our fears.

So often, the many fears within us push us to be selfish, forgetting others in the process. And that is when we start hating each other, creating this vicious circle of sufferings as the Jedi Master Yoda warned Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.”

From Google.

We all have fears. It is normal to feel afraid especially when threatened by a grave danger or threat to life.

Being brave, having courage does not mean having no fears; on the contrary, courage is facing one’s fears in life. Cowardice, on the other hand, is refusal to face our fears.

Jesus is asking us today to face our fears with him and in him so we can be free to follow him in his mission.

Facing our fears in Jesus Christ

What are our fears that lead us to anger and hate, that immobilize us to reach out to God and others? Let us examine them in the light of Christ’s reassuring words this Sunday.

“Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”

Matthew 10:26-27
Photo by author, 2019.

Fear of not being loved and appreciated

One of the things I fear most is not being loved and appreciated, of being neglected and taken for granted.

It is a fear akin with low self-esteem or self-worth that make me afraid of others I deem as better and superior than me.

There are many contributing factors to this fear, mostly not of our own making like growing up in a very strict environment where we are not able to measure up to the expectations of those around us. Sometimes it is due to traumatic experiences that have truly hurt us inside and outside.

As I grew up meeting so many people from various walks of life, including those I looked up and admire including some personalities, I have realized that indeed nobody is perfect. No one has the monopoly of every good thing — looks and intelligence, wealth and health. We all need one another, and we are also needed. And loved as well as appreciated too!

We are all broken and lost, wounded and hurt; no need to fear anyone. What is most important is to always remember God loves us very much — no matter what.

At night before we sleep, do not just count your sins and failures; think also of the good things you have done, people you have helped and made happy. Listen to God thanking you for being so nice with someone. That is what Jesus is telling us to “speak in light” what he said to you in darkness!

Every morning when you wake up, be silent and still, pray and little, listen to God whispering to you the words “I love you… I believe in you” to inspire your for the brand new day. These are the words Jesus is asking you to “proclaim on the housetops”.

Forget those pains inflicted on us by others, in words or in deeds — they must be hurting too, feeling more unloved and unappreciated than us, more fearful than us!

Photo by Juhasz Imre on Pexels.com

Afraid of getting hurt, physically and emotionally

Another fear I always have is being hurt because I might not be able to take or absorb the pains. Worst, adjust to changes and disturbances that may result.

I was a very sickly child when growing up that I dreaded injections and other medical procedures. Aside from getting hurt, I feared that things could never be the same again, altering or disturbing what I have been used to.

But, as I aged fighting many battles in life, enduring so many pains and hurts with some help from family and friends, I have learned that pain is part of growing up. In fact, growing up becomes nicer with more pains and hurts that make us stronger and wiser with the many lessons we can learn. Most of all, pains and hurts have opened up many doorways to new beginnings that made me grow and mature as a person and as a priest.

Indeed, as the Lord had told us, do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul. It is what is inside that makes us who we really are. Replace those fears with Jesus and dare to get hurt and bruised that may destroy you outside but stronger inside.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Fear of getting lost, of being alone.

This fear has recurred in me lately during this quarantine period when I am all by myself in my parish with no one to talk to or share whatever may be inside me.

Sometimes it is so tempting to just vanish and die than be lost and alone!

Recently I celebrated a funeral Mass for a young man who committed suicide: he came from the Visayas last February to try his luck here in our barrio to work as a helper in a small candy shop. With the imposition of lockdown in mid-March, he lost his job and had to stay with his cousins who were also laid off from work. The teenager grew homesick, getting depressed later that no amount of alcohol of their nightly drinking sessions could give him a sense of mission that he decided to hang himself on a tree while his drinking companions were all drunk.

Sad that nobody had reminded him of his mission in life that he decided to just end it all. He had forgotten not only his dreams and mission but also his parents and six other siblings in the province looking up to him.

Even if we are in our worst situations in life, for as long as we are alive, still breathing, may we never lose that sense of mission from God because that means we are important, that God believes in us in entrusting us with a mission. Truly, we are worth more than a thousand sparrows that God takes care of.

From QuoteMaster.com

Experiencing God in the midst of trials

Life is like a rollercoaster: it is something we all fear but we still keep on riding because it is so fulfilling, very liberating, so exciting. It knocks out all the fears in us, making us so aware of life, of being alive.

That was the experience of the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading: he would always complain to God of his own inadequacies, especially his many fears for the mission and yet, he could not let go of God’s call because he is so in love with him! He could not resist God like a rollercoaster.

I really hoped the lectionary had included the first three verses to the start of our first reading today:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:7-9


Jeremiah was a timid man who was also hypersensitive; yet, God called him to an impossible mission. And despite a long process of purifications marked by arrests, imprisonment and public humiliations, Jeremiah remained faithful to his mission to God that later cost his life. Eventually, the more he became great after his death that he is regarded a major prophet in all three major religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

That is the joy of staying in love with God who is like a rollercoaster: he “seduces” us to come to him and then “scares” us, sometimes “hurts” only in the end to surprise us with greater things beyond our imaginations.

We come to experience God most and closest in darkness and trials where he is so real as another person to us. The key is to let go of our fears in Jesus Christ who was no stranger too to fearful situations.

It is nice to know that the greatest and holiest men and women of God were all like us — people so fearful yet brave enough to face their fears in Christ who never fails to provide us with the courage and strength needed in fulfilling our mission.

A blessed Sunday to all!

Scoundrels are we?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 June 2020
1 Kings 21:1-16 ><)))*> ><)))*> <*(((>< <*(((>< Matthew 5:38-42
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, stranded people staying at the underpass near the NAIA after waiting for so long to catch their flights back to their provinces since March.

So many times in life, O God our Father, we hear so many stories of injustice, of how our neighbors are treated so badly that we feel so disgusted at how it could happen at all.

Like all these stories of people stranded in Metro Manila, of the lowly income earners who have to walk for hours just to get to work because there are not enough public transport system allowed to operate.

Of those made to suffer the strict quarantine rules when police officials and politicians were allowed to get off the hook or, the arrest and incarceration of a poor, elderly jeepney driver who had joined a protest rally while the former First Lady who was convicted of corruption charges two years ago was spared of any jail term because of her age.

So much inequalities happening shamelessly, with much impunity by those in power, O Lord!

Exactly like the evil Queen Jezebel who instructed her people to find two scoundrels to testify against Naboth so she could take his vineyard so desired by her husband King Ahab.

Two scoundrels came in and confronted him with the accusation, “Naboth has cursed God and king.” And they led him out of the city and stoned him to death. When Jezebel learned that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Go on, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite which he refused to sell you, because Naboth is nbot alive, but dead.” On hearing that Naboth was dead, Ahab started off on his way down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

1 Kings 21:13-16

Such stories are so revulsive, O God, not only of their nature but more because partly to be blamed is us — when we have refused to do anything good in fighting evil. Indeed, the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Yes, O God, we are ashamed because we have unconsciously sided with the scoundrels when we chose to “see nothing, hear nothing, and say nothing” of their lies, their harsh words and vulgarities, and their systematic killing sprees to solve the problems of the society.

We have misread the words of your Son Jesus Christ by becoming passive in the face of evil.

Jesus said to his disciples: “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes on your right cheek, turn the other one to him as well. Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.”

Matthew 5:38-39, 41

Give us the wisdom and courage to turn our other cheek, to go the extra mile in asserting to evil doers that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ who must treat one another with respect and equal dignity as a person created in your image and likeness, God our Father.

Inspire us, O God, especially our leaders in the Church who have gone so timid and silent except for a very few on how we can be more prophetic in this time of crisis under an unfriendly government. Amen.

A view from Tagaytay by the author, October 2019.

What’s up on the mountain?

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week X, Year II of Ordinary Time, 08 June 2020
1 Kings 17:7-16 <*(((>< + ><)))*> Matthew 5:1-12
Mount Sinai range at sunrise, May 2019. Photo by author.

Your words today Lord brought memories of childhood when I would always look up to the mountains, wondering what is up there or how wonderful it must be up there.

As I grew up, that fascination with the mountains remained until I had the chance to climb some of them and learned one very valuable lesson: it is so nice to be up on the mountain but always difficult.

One has to pour in a lot of planning and preparations, most of all, more sacrifices.

There is always that inverse proportionality when it can take so much efforts to ascend, always painstaking while every descent is always less than half the time and energy.

Most of all, every ascent to the mountain calls for trust, a great deal of trust in you, Lord, because anything can happen. In fact, one has to always expect the unexpected when ascending a mountain.

But rewards are so great and the feeling is always liberating and free.

Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, 2018 photo by author.

Teach me, Lord, to be like your Prophet Elijah, to always dare to climb mountains, to rely on your providence for water to drink and food to eat because more than these is the nourishment you provide for the soul and being of anyone willing to come near you.

Like your disciples and the crowd who followed you, Jesus, bless me with courage and trust to follow you up every mountain, listening and following your teachings.

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 5:1-4

How blessed indeed, O Lord, to be high up on the mountain with you for heaven is no longer that far, so reachable with you — especially when beside your holy Cross. Amen.

Timely reminders from St. Paul in this time of pandemic

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Charles Lwanga and Companion Martyrs, 03 June 2020
2 Timothy 1:1-3, 6-12 ><)))*> + <*(((>< Mark 12:18-27
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, April 2020.

We thank you, most loving God our Father, for the grace of perseverance and patience in this time of the pandemic. We thank you for the gift of trusting in your love and mercy despite all the sufferings and hardships our people have been going through amid the callousness and insensitivity of our leaders in government who have allowed to open offices, factories, and malls without providing adequate transportation while keeping all houses of worship closed.

May they heed, O Lord, the reminders of St. Paul to Timothy:

“I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.”

2 Timothy 1:6-7

We pray for more courage for our leaders in government so they may not cower in fear to the threats of COVID-19 when there are so many measures to control its spread which they should have taken long time ago but have failed to do so for reasons only they know.

Give them courage to stand up to their superiors, to admit their faults and failures instead of being so concerned in building their image as strong and capable that deceive no one.

Remind us all, O Lord, that we own nothing in this life. Everything is yours even the power and authority we have that must be tempered with genuine love and concern for the people and most especially with self-control.

How sad, O Lord, that until now, there are people who insist on possessing persons like the Sadducees who cannot accept resurrection of the dead because they are stuck into the belief couples “own” each other:

“At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her.”

Matthew 12:23
From ShareCatholic.com

One of those who thought of owning people was the pedophile King Mwanga of Uganda who persecuted the Christians in 1885-1887.

Inspire us, Lord, with the examples of St. Charles Lwanga and companion martyrs who remained pure and chaste, choosing tortures and death than to give in to the sexual perversions and immoralities of King Mwanga.

Their martyrdom became the seeds for the growth of Christianity in Uganda.

Help us to lead holy lives, Lord, amid the many sufferings we have to endure especially at this time of pandemic worsened by those who do not seem to care at all about you and spirituality, of the elderly and the sick, of the poor and needy among us.

Keep us all strong and let us not be perverted by the corrupt among us, always bearing our share of hardship for the Gospel with the strength that comes from you, O God. Amen.

Praying for courage to follow God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Friday, Easter Week VII, 29 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 25:13-21 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> John 21:15-19

Photo by author, ancient ruins of Caesarea in Israel, May 2019.

Dearest Lord Jesus, give us the courage to truly follow you, the courage to forget our selves, and most of all, the courage to truly desire and seek you.

So often, we always desire you but we are not willing to set aside our own plans and agenda. We are afraid of starting all over again, afraid of what others would say to our great visions and dreams.

We ask for your directions but we are never willing to go with you because we are afraid of going to uncharted and untested situations and places. We are afraid of getting lost, of losing time and money for our endeavors and pursuits in life.

We ask for strength but we refuse to give up our attachments because we are afraid of not having any fall back just in case we fail. We are afraid of losing everything if we entrust everything to the Holy Spirit.

Lord, let us realize like Peter that to desire and follow you requires courage on our part because to have you, to follow you means losing our very selves in you so we can be with you wherever you may be.

Jesus said to Peter, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”

John 21:18

Even St. Paul in the first reading courageously followed you, Lord, from Miletus to Jerusalem to Caesarea and finally to Rome to fulfill the mission you have entrusted to him.

May we find courage in you Lord that like St. Peter and St. Paul, we may also answer and fulfill your call. Amen.