Knowing Jesus with conviction

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIV-B in Ordinary Time, 12 September 2021
Isaiah 50:5-9 ><]]]]'> James 2:14-18 ><]]]]'> Mark 8:27-35
Photo by author, Parish of St. Joseph, Baras, Rizal (January 2021).

Last Wednesday as we celebrated the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a friend told me how on the eve of that feast her eldest son Andrei expressed to her his wish to gift Mama Mary with a cake but did not know how to get to heaven. “Bibili ko sana siya ng cake, mommy, pero paano ako mapupunta sa langit?”

My friend simply told her son how difficult it is to get into heaven because he has to get so many ladders to get there and see Mama Mary and Jesus.

What a beautiful question from a child filled with innocence, “how do we get into heaven?”

Ironically, it is a question we all know the answer but do not care nor take seriously for many reasons, primarily because of fear until this pandemic hit us, forcing us into facing again this reality of death – of going into heaven.

In today’s gospel, Jesus teaches us how we can get into heaven by knowing him truly with conviction, not just according to our own or somebody else’s thinking and ideas of him as the Christ.

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi. Along the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” They said in reply, “John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others one of the prophets.” And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” Then he warned them not to tell anyone about him. He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.

Mark 8:27-31

Other’s opinion vs. my conviction

When we look at the gospel of Mark as a whole, we find it is a step-by-step revelation of who is Jesus Christ, following certain stages in his stories. Notice since the beginning Mark has been telling us how the people including the Twelve were asking among themselves who was Jesus for he spoke with authority that even the sea and the wind obeyed him while demons cried when exorcised by him. People were so amazed at his great powers, both in words and in deeds that everybody was getting near him to know him.

Photo by author, St. Catherine Monastery at Sinai, Egypt (May 2019)

It is at Caesarea Philippi where Mark’s gospel reaches the middle section, a turning point when Jesus reveals himself in stages.

From here on, Mark will take a faster pace in his narration and revelation of who is Jesus now making a U-turn from Caesarea Philippi to head towards Jerusalem to face his death. We too are expected to make a U-turn in our knowledge of Jesus, from mere opinions of others to a personal conviction of who Jesus is.

Observe the step-by-step manner by Jesus in revealing himself to his disciples at Caesarea Philippi.

First, Jesus surveyed the Twelve, asking them “Who do people say that I am?”.

Feel the uncertainty among them while telling Jesus what they have heard the people saying: John the Baptist? Elijah? One of the prophets?

We find a tinge of being unsure even in themselves in what to tell the Lord because they have also heard the questions and accusations by the scribes and Pharisees against their young teacher. “Kabado sila” as we say in Filipino.

But to their surprise, Jesus came up with a second question directly to each one of them at point blank, requiring a deep, personal conviction and commitment: “But who do you say that I am?”.

Like at Capernaum after the bread of life discourse when everybody left Jesus led by his disciples, here he is asking the Twelve -including us – again for a faith decision, to say what we really feel and think about him, without repeating what we have heard from others or read from any book.

Peter said to him in reply, “You are the Christ.” See in this statement by Peter the clear difference from the people’s opinions of Jesus. Feel the conviction of Peter in declaring “you are the Christ.” There must have been something he had experienced deep within that he felt Jesus so real, so new, so alive – not just any prophet from old who had come back but in fact the very one referred to by the prophets before!

Jesus is clearly distinct and different from what we have heard and read, so personal and so true. As we would usually tell others of how convinced we are of someone or something, “ah, basta!” which is akin to Archimedes’ “eureka” experience.

Like at Caesarea Philippi, our lives get on a turning point significantly once we have had that kind of experience of who Jesus Christ is. We can never grow deep in our faith in him and experience him personally without that Caesarea Philippi experience.

However, it is not everything. Even Peter would falter immediately after this turning point.

He spoke this openly. Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. At this he turned around and, looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.”

Mark 8:32-33
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

Christ’s pedagogy of the Cross

It is not enough that we set aside sometimes what others say or write about Jesus; we also have to discard and forget whatever we have entertained in our minds and hearts on who Jesus could be. In telling Peter to “Get behind me, Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do”, Jesus is telling us too that it is still a long way to go for us to truly know him.

Remember that in Jewish thought, to know someone is to have a relationship, an intimacy with the other person. Although the disciples have already taken a great step in knowing Jesus as the Christ following Peter’s confession that is so distinct from what others say, such knowledge leads us to the hardest and most difficult stage of knowing Jesus through his Cross.

It is can also be the most painful stage in truly knowing Jesus that is why he warned them not to tell anyone about him like what Peter realized that he reacted that way. Of course, we also know how Peter got to know Jesus more in the most painful way when he denied knowing the Lord thrice on the night he was arrested leading to Good Friday.

Remember, the more we get to know Jesus, the more we experience him so real in our lives, the more we follow him, the more the devil confuses us, the more the devil feeds us with so many thoughts or sends us with people like those in this Administration and politicians now campaigning with grand designs, with great intentions for Jesus and for the poor when in fact detract us from the path of the Cross.

Notice how Jesus insisted in his first prediction of his Passion, Death and Resurrection at Caesarea Philippi that “the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and rise after three days.” There is always that qualifier “must” in suffering and pain with Jesus for there is no shortcut nor easy way to get to heaven, to be holy, to be fulfilled in this life which is so unlike the promises of the devil acting in our selfish thoughts or among our politicians and government officials.

Jesus himself had shown us in his Passion, Death, and Resurrection the key to truly knowing him is to have a complete trust in the Father like him as the Servant referred to in the first reading from Isaiah who bore all insults and beatings but never felt disgraced because “the Lord God is my help.”

For so long in our country, many have been duped by politicians who have promised the people of a wonderful life minus sufferings by just electing them into office. All these miseries and misfortunes we are into show us clearly that hardly do we really know who is Jesus Christ as we keep on putting into office people we hardly know as demons in many disguises.

During this pandemic when we have so much time to reflect and pray, let us empty our hearts and minds, exorcise them of many evil thoughts to be penetrated by the divine thoughts found in the scriptures so we may know Jesus clearly, love him dearly, and follow him closely with our lives of faith expressed in works of charity as James exhorts us in the second reading.

It is the clearest sign that we truly know Jesus when our faith in him bears much fruits in works of charity and mercy. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, close-up shot of the Seventh Station of the Cross at St. Ildephonsus Parish, Tanay, Rizal (January 2021). Notice one of the men wearing shades believed to be Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus; we have to remove our shades to truly know Jesus especially when there are trials and sufferings in life. See our article, https://lordmychef.com/2021/02/04/road-trip-in-time-of-covid-19-the-company-we-keep-in-lifes-journey/

Schooling in time of COVID-19

Homily by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II 
Mass of the Holy Spirit for the College Department
Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
06 September 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, April 2021.
"Those who seek truth seek God,
whether they realize it or not."
- St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

Last August 9 we celebrated the memorial of a modern saint who died at the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Second World War. She was a German Jew named Edith Stein who became an atheist but later regained her faith as she pursued higher learning in the field of philosophy that was so rare for women at that time.

As she progressed into her philosophical studies working as an assistant to Prof. Edmund Husserl known as the “father of phenomenology”, she converted into Catholicism, eventually leaving her teaching post at a university to become a Carmelite contemplative nun, adopting the name Teresa Benedicta dela Cruz.


Congratulations, our dear students in college who dare to learn and seek the truth by enrolling in this Academic Year 2021-2022.

Students and teachers are both seekers of truth. As St. Teresa Benedicta had experienced, every search for truth leads us to God, the ultimate Truth.

This is a very difficult and trying year for us all but like St. Teresa Benedicta and all the other saints as well as great men and women of history, they all sought for the truth in the most troubled time in history. Trials and hardships in life make learning more “fun” – and an imperative at the same time. In fact, the more we must study and search the truth during critical moments in history and in our lives in order to learn more lessons that are valuable not only to us in dealing with our problems but also with the succeeding generations.

Two important virtues we need to cultivate in seeking the truth, in learning our lessons in this time of the pandemic that I hope you, teachers and students will rediscover this Academic Year: patience and humility.


This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, 
teaching us the value of patience, 
of patient waiting for everything, 
reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced 
by allowing nature to take its course, 
without shortcuts nor rush, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Photo by author, 2019.

Patience is from the Latin “patior” that means “to suffer, to bear with.”

Learning is a process. We cannot know everything right away. It requires a lot of patience on every student and teacher.

This is the reason why Jesus assured his disciples at the Last Supper that he would send them the Holy Spirit he referred to as the Advocate.

“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning… I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.

John 15:26-27, 16:12

In the last 20 years, so much have changed in our lives brought about by modern means of communication.

Great volumes of information have become so readily accessible at great speed, that many in the younger generation have seemed to have lost the virtue of patience. At the snap of your fingers, you can easily have almost everything you need aside from information and music – including food and groceries, clothes and appliances, plants and pets, even medicines and dates!

But life, most especially learning, takes time, requiring a lot of patience in waiting and searching.

Like the Apostles of Jesus who had to wait for the descent of the Holy Spirit at the Upper Room in Jerusalem.

This pandemic may be considered as another Pentecost, teaching us the value of patience, of patient waiting for everything, reminding us that the beauty of life is best experienced by allowing nature to take its course, without shortcuts, to enjoy its beauty as it unfolds before us.

Let our Lord Jesus Christ be our example in following in the path of patience, of suffering; every trial becomes a blessing, a moment of transformation when seen in the light of Jesus Christ who suffered and died for us on the Cross. His very life tells us that there can be no Easter Sunday without a Good Friday.

This pandemic period is an extended Good Friday but in between those moments of sufferings, we experience little Easter if we try to be patient like what some of you have experienced when you graduated in this time of the pandemic.


Photo by author, January 2020.

The second virtue I wish to invite you to rediscover, teachers and students alike, is humility which is again from the Latin word humus that literally means “soil”.

From humus came the words human and humor.

Man was created from clay, a kind of soil. A person with a sense of humor is one who can laugh at things because he or she is rooted on the ground. We call a person with sense of humor in Filipino as “mababaw” or shallow – not empty but close to the ground or deeply rooted.

It is very difficult to learn anything nor discover the truth unless we first become humble. Pride and ego are the greatest stumbling blocks to any kind of learning. You will find in history, even in our personal lives how many opportunities in the past were lost simply because of our pride or “ego trip”.

Pride was the very sin of Adam and Eve that led to their fall. That is why when Jesus came to save us from effects of that Fall, humility became his central teaching when he demanded us to forget ourselves and, most of all, to become like that of a child so we shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

This humility Jesus himself showed us the path by being born like us – small and helpless.

And that has always been the way of God ever since: the small and little ones, those taken for granted, the unknown and rejected are always the ones used as God’s instruments, the ones always effecting the most far-reaching changes in history and our personal lives.

Even in the story of the Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit, we find the centrality of becoming small to become a part of the whole.

It is the exact opposite of the story at Babel when people in the Old Testament dared to build a tower reaching to the skies; because of their pride, God confused them by making them speak different languages that led to the collapse of their tower and ambitions. During the Pentecost, the people were all united as one despite the different languages they speak because everybody was willing to listen, to become small in themselves to give way to others.

Like during the Pentecost, let us allow the “tongues of fire” and the “strong, driving wind” of the Holy Spirit part us of our fears and indifference, pride and ego during this Academic year 2021-2022 to fully realize and learn the important lessons and truth this pandemic is teaching us.

Photo from vaticannews,va, 13 May 2017.

Whenever, and wherever there is a search for truth that leads to the discovery of God through our patience and humility, there springs simultaneously the growth of a community. It is no wonder that wherever there is prayer and worship, there is always learning leading to bonding, or communing.

The first universities – from the Latin term universitas or “community of teachers and scholars” – where all offshoots of the efforts of the monks in their monastery as they evangelized peoples, teaching them not only prayers but also the basics of learning like reading and writing. Eventually monasteries had annex buildings as schools and universities that led to the establishment of towns and cities in Europe that spawned the growth of commerce and trade following the great many interactions among peoples.

Here we find the beautiful interplay of the search for truth that leads to discovery of God that bears fruit into mercy and love among people.

Another learned Saint who sought the Truth, Thomas Aquinas said that the more we learn the truth, the more we become intelligent, the more we must become holy.

How lovely it is, my dear students and teachers of Our Lady of Fatima University that wherever there is Truth which is Veritas, there is also Misericordia, the two mottos of our beloved University.

Amid the threats of COVID-19, amid the difficulties of online learning, let us continue to seek the truth, be patient and humble with one another as we try to build a community of “achievers” by “improving man as man”, “rising to the top” not to be conceited and proud but to be able to offer ourselves in the service of the country and of the world, for the praise and glory of God.

May our Patroness, the Our Lady of Fatima, lead us closer to Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth and the Life.” Amen.

From Facebook.com/fatima.university.

Opening our ears and heart

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXIII-B in Ordinary Time, 05 September 2021
Isaiah 35:4-7 ><}}}'> James 2:1-5 ><}}}'> Mark 7:31-37
Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

Since the start of our Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) last month, I have always admired the faithful people who continue to celebrate Mass with us outside our church as well as those in other places like Quiapo.

I have nothing against ECQ but I have always questioned the government decision in prioritizing churches in every lockdown when we have always been very strict in our protocols unlike malls and groceries. Most of all, it is during this time of crisis when we must give people the chance to express their faith in going to houses of worship to pray in silence and celebrate with the community while observing protocols.

It is very touching and inspiring to see people – young and old alike, healthy and sickly going to churches every Sunday, catching up with our Lord Jesus Christ even outside, rain or shine.

And that is why our gospel this Sunday is again very timely at this time we have reached the two-million mark in less than a year in the number of those infected with COVID-19 while those in government corruption are also breaking the billion peso mark in anomalous transactions! That is how evil those people are that while many are suffering in the pandemic, there those in government with gall to steal big time.

Has God forsaken us his people, especially at this time we are celebrating our 500th year of Christianization? Of course not!

Jesus Christ continues to come to us everyday not only to cleanse by washing our hearts of evil and sin as we have seen last Sunday in the gospel; today, Mark tells us how Jesus comes also to open our ears in order to hear and listen to his words that eventually open our hearts to freedom and salvation.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis. And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!”

Mark 7:31-34

“Jesus went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into Decapolis

Of the four evangelists, Mark is the only one who portrays Jesus as always on the go without even telling us details of his itinerary nor of the places he visited and people he had met. As the first gospel account written, Mark wrote in straight news style as he felt the urgency of proclaiming the gospel of Jesus.

However, when Mark gives even the slightest details of the places and people in the journeys of the Lord, it always means something else. Like in our gospel today.

Photo by author, Sea (Lake) of Galilee, 2017.

Again Jesus left the district of Tyre and went by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, into the district of the Decapolis.

Mark 7:31

You will recall that in July when Jesus sent his disciples to their first missionary journey, they were told to seek the “lost sheep of Israel”, to not go to pagan and Samaritan lands.

Today, it is the Lord himself who left Tyre and Sidon in northern Israel to go into the pagan territories of Decapolis that literally means “ten cities”.

Here we find the universality of Christ’s mission, not just for his fellow Jews. His love is so encompassing covering all the peoples of all time, then and now.

Jesus seeks us out who are in totally alien territory in life like this pandemic because he loves us.

When we look back and reflect in our lives, we find so many instances in the past how it was in the most foreign and lost situations when we have actually found God, is it not?

Reflecting further in this scene in the Decapolis, Mark is reminding us how we could also be those people who have brought the deaf-mute to Jesus, begging him to heal the man.

And people brought to him a deaf man who had a speech impediment and begged him to lay his hand on him.

Mark 7:32

Those people who have begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute are the same people who went out of their ways since the start of the pandemic helping others in their many needs and sufferings, those people who sacrificed time, talent and treasures for the less fortunate like the community pantry.

They were also those elder brothers and sisters who have helped their younger siblings to learn and thrive in the new mode of learning online that began last year.

Those people who begged Jesus to heal the deaf-mute were also the same medical health frontliners who have died or still continue to serve us despite our callous government officials led by the health secretary.

Though there were so many abusive people last year -mostly civil servants and police officials who have notoriously made headlines – there were still more generous and kind people who made Jesus present to someone in need during this pandemic.

How wonderful it is to realize – and relish this Sunday as we find ourselves in this unusual and surreal situation of the COVID-19 pandemic that Christ is also with us, staying with us, speaking to us.

But, are we listening to him? Are we not also the same deaf-mute who needs Christ’s healing?

Photo by author, Caeasaria in northern Israel, 2017.

“Ephphata” – Be opened!

Notice another significant detail that Mark has mentioned in this gospel scene. Aside from identifying the Lord’s coming to the pagan territory of Decapolis, Mark surprisingly tells us in details the unique and unusual manner of healing by Jesus there.

There must be something very important in this unique healing by Jesus whereas before, he would just lay his hands on the sick or most usually, he would merely speak. Remember that we could also be this deaf needing Christ’s healing.

He took him off by himself away from the crowd. He put his finger into the man’s ears, and spitting, touched his tongue; then he looked up to heaven and groaned, and said to him, “Ephphatha!” that is, “Be opened!” And immediately the man’s ears were opened, his speech impediment was removed, and he spoke plainly.

Mark 7:33-35

Opening to God involves our whole person, our whole being. Not just our eyes and ears, but most of all our heart. And the first step for us is to take a break from our ordinary life, from our daily routines that have numbed us that we have lost our consciousness of the present moment, even of our very selves.

This is why Jesus “took him off by himself from the crowd.”

Photo by Ms. Mira Mandal Sibal, 08 August 2021.

To a certain sense, this is the grace of the pandemic – an opportunity for us all to spend more time with Jesus in prayers at home or in the church and to bond and fix those broken ties in our family. Before the pandemic, couples and children rarely have the chance to be together even at meals due to each one’s busy schedule; but, with COVID-19’s new mode of work and learning “from home”, many were thrown off balance because some have long lost their sense of being with family members.

Prayer in fact is an awareness of our presence that leads us to God’s presence. Unless we learn to separate from others and the usual ordinariness of our lives characterized by madness and toxicity in everything, we can never experience the presence of God in Jesus Christ in us and among us as well as in the sacraments and prayers.

That putting of Jesus of his finger into the man’s ears and touching his tongue with a spit indicate the personal encounter of the Lord with each of us, of how he would reach out to us daily to feel and experience his presence but we are always “out-of-touch”.

It is said that our heart is the shape of two ears put together.

I believe so. Opening to God is opening our ears to Jesus speaking to us daily. He has been trying so hard to converse with us but we hardly notice him around us because of those ubiquitous ear pods and headphones always stuck into our ears. We shut ourselves from the world to be into our own world, separated from everyone including God. We would rather listen to influencers and personal playlists that confirm things we believe as true, no more room for others especially the poor and marginalized as James noted in his Letter we have heard proclaimed in the second reading.

Beginning this Sunday, let us set ourselves apart from the rest to open ourselves to Jesus to see his light and hear his words so we can walk his path of joy and peace because he is “the Way” (Jn.16:6).

Let our hearts be strong, not to fear this crisis because God has fulfilled his promise prophesied by Isaiah in the first reading on Christ’s coming with “vindication and divine recompense to save us” (Is.35:4).

Have a blessed first week of September!

Photo from news.abs-cbn.com, 2020.

Fulfillment in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 02 September 2021
Colossians 1:9-14   ><}}}*> ><}}}*> ><}}}*>   Luke 5:1-11
Photo by author of the statues of Simon Peter kneeling before Jesus after the miraculous catch of fish at the lake, 2017.
As the pandemic rages with its
more devastating surge affecting
whole families, we pray dear Father
not only for healing of those afflicted
with COVID-19 but also for the opening
of our minds and hearts to find the
deeper realities of life instead of still
being preoccupied with mundane and 
selfish desires we have taken as our
false securities.  Let us remove all these
blindness in us to see and embrace 
the truth of your Son Jesus Christ, the 
only one who can lead us out of this
darkness that is also of our own making.
Let the prayer of St. Paul for the Colossians
be our prayer today, Father:  "that we may walk
in a manner worthy of the Lord so as to be fully
pleasing in every good work, bearing fruit
and growing in the knowledge of God" so that
"we may be fit to share in the inheritance 
of the holy ones in light" (Colossians 1:10,12).
Dear Father, help us realize the need for us
to seek fulfillment only you in Christ Jesus
"in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness
of sins" (Colossians 1:14).
Open our eyes to see the deeper story behind 
the news happening around us today:  
of what sense is our pursuit for fame,
wealth and power when we can easily die with
COVID-19 or when our country is overrun 
by rebels like Afghanistan?
Fulfillment in life can only be found 
in Jesus Christ your Son who had come 
to enable us "catch abundant fish" when
all our toils and efforts yielded nothing;
teach us to trust in you more, to dare 
cast the net into the deep and most of all,
to leave our "boat" of comfort and ease
to walk with Jesus, following him as
"fishers of men" sharing his loving service
and presence, mercy and kindness with everyone.
Amen. 

True faith and good health build a community

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 01 September 2021
Colossians 1:9-14   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 4:38-44
Photo by author, November 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father,
for the gift of life that we have
reached the first day of the "ber"
months leading to Christmas.
Since last year we have been
amusing ourselves with the 
awaited playing of Christmas
carols in September to feel good.
But today, we also feel blessed
for being alive, in keeping the faith
in you.

Brothers and sisters: from the day we heard about you, we do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding; to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord so as to be fully pleasing in every good work, bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:9-10
While we are all praying
 for more faith and good health
 in this time of another surge,
we continue to pray for the
healing of all those afflicted
with COVID-19, begging you like
Simon Peter for his mother-in-law;
We pray for the healing of the sick
not only in body but also in mind,
heart and soul.
Help us realize that like faith,
good health builds community;
that good health concerns all
because everyone's well-being
depends also with everyone's health.

After Jesus left the synagogue, he entered the house of Simon. Simon’s mother-in-law was afflicted with a severe fever, and they interceded with him about her. He stood over her, rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and waited on them.

Luke 4:38-39
Teach us, O God,
to be like Simon Peter's mother-in-law 
to realize that most especially 
in our good health we can help build 
our community and family 
by serving in the name of Jesus
for other's good health
and wellness.
Amen.

The Holy month of August

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 August 2021
Photo by Fr. John Howard Tarrayo, National Shrine and Parish of Fatima, Valenzuela City, 06 August 2021.

Like the months of November and January, August now suffers the same fate of being more known with pagan rituals and beliefs despite its rich liturgical celebrations and feasts we celebrate – ironically – as the only Christian nation in this part of the world.

Spurred mainly by the social media, more and more Filipinos now believe that August is a “ghost month” with almost everybody even not a Chinoy are posting those “Do’s” and “Don’ts” on Facebook to cast away or avoid the evil spell by ghosts that August is supposed to bring.

What a sad reality in our Catholic Christian country.

Forty or 30 years ago, all we have was “pangangaluluwa” when some people would sing in front of our homes for some donations like in caroling during Christmas season. With the advent of social media and our penchant for anything American, we now have every November those grossly erroneous and pagan Halloween practices of costume party and “trick or treat”. Not far from that is our January tradition borrowed also from pagans of literally welcoming every New Year with a lot of “bang”, wasting precious money that also cost some lives and injuries to so many due to fireworks and firecrackers.

Here we find the kind of religiosity that binds most of us, more on rites and rituals but lacking in roots and spirituality, centered on ourselves to be assured of every kind of blessings, forgetting all about the very object of faith who is God expressed in our concern for one another.


August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year.  
Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one.  
No day nor date nor time is malas because 
when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, 
life has become holy, filled with God, 
debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

August is not a ghost month nor any other month of the year. Like the days of the week, every month is a blessed one. No day nor date nor time is malas because when God became human like us in the coming of Jesus Christ, life has become holy, filled with God, debunking those ancient beliefs of the Divine being seen in various cosmic forces.

In this regard a text by Saint Gregory Nazianzen is enlightening. He says that at the very moment when the Magi, guided by the star, adored Christ the new king, astrology came to an end, because the stars were now moving in the orbit determined by Christ[2]. This scene, in fact, overturns the world-view of that time, which in a different way has become fashionable once again today. It is not the elemental spirits of the universe, the laws of matter, which ultimately govern the world and mankind, but a personal God governs the stars, that is, the universe; it is not the laws of matter and of evolution that have the final say, but reason, will, love—a Person. And if we know this Person and he knows us, then truly the inexorable power of material elements no longer has the last word; we are not slaves of the universe and of its laws, we are free. In ancient times, honest enquiring minds were aware of this. Heaven is not empty. Life is not a simple product of laws and the randomness of matter, but within everything and at the same time above everything, there is a personal will, there is a Spirit who in Jesus has revealed himself as Love[3].

#5 of Spe Salvi (Saved in Hope) by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, 30 November 2007
From catholicapostolatecenter.org.

Consider the name of this month August which was borrowed from the Roman Caesar Augustus that signifies reverence or to hold someone in high regard. As an adjective, august means “respected and impressive” like when we say “in this august hall of men and women of science”.

Most of all, consider the great feasts that fall on this month of August: the Transfiguration of the Lord Jesus Christ on August 6 and the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven on August 15. Both feasts remind us of the promise of glory in heaven as we strive and persevere to lead holy lives in this world filled with pain and sufferings.

(See our blogs on these feasts, https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/06/transfiguration-in-time-of-corona/ and https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/14/mary-mirror-of-gods-greatness/.)

There are also so many saints we celebrate on this month of August like our patron saint as priests, St. John Vianney (August 4); St. Dominic who died 800 years ago on August 8 after serving not only the Church but also the whole world in general when he founded the Order of Preachers (O.P.) also known as the “Dominicans”; St. Clare of Assisi (August 11), a contemporary and friend of St. Francis; St. Bernard of Clairvaux (August 20) who wrote so many beautiful homilies, hymns and prayers like the Memorare; St. Rose of Lima (August 23) who was the first saint from the New World; and of course not to forget the greatest mother and son tandem next maybe to Mary and Jesus, St. Monica (August 27) and St. Augustine (August 28).

August is also the month of two great followers of Jesus, St. Bartholomew the Apostle (August 24) and two former Pharisees who buried our Lord, St. Joseph of Arimathea and St. Nicodemus (August 31). Likewise, it is on August 29 when we celebrate the martyrdom of the Lord’s precursor, St. John the Baptist who was beheaded during the birthday party of Herod who was so afraid to take back his oath to give whatever Salome would ask him after delighting his guests with a dance number.

There are two special saints we celebrate this holy month that according to St. John Paul II are both saints of our modern time, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (August 09) and St. Maximilian Kolbe (August 14). Both saints were martyred in the gas chambers of Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

St. Teresa Benedicta is the same German philosopher Edith Stein, a former Jew who had become an atheist in her younger years in the university but upon further studies and prayer, converted into Catholicism, becoming a Carmelite nun where she adopted her new name. She wrote in one of her writings that “Those who seek truth seek God, whether they realize it or not“.

Though she had become Catholic, she did not abandon her Judaic roots, even writing the Pope at that time to ask him to speak strongly against the Nazi Germans’ extermination of Jews. Her death on August 9, 1942 at Auschwitz with her younger sister who had become a Catholic too was a fitting testimony to her faith, honoring her Jewish roots by dying among them as a martyr of Christ and one who had “learned to live in God’s hands” according to Sr. Josephine Koeppel, OCD, a translator of much of her works.

Dying ahead of her in Auschwitz on August 14, 1941 was St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest who was arrested for his writings against the evil Nazis. It was actually his second time to be arrested.

When a prisoner had escaped from the camp, authorities rounded up ten men to die in exchange of the lone escapee. Fr. Kolbe volunteered to take the place of a married man with children. They were all tortured and starved in order to die slowly in pain. A devotee of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Maximilian was injected with carbolic acid on the eve of the Assumption after guards found him along with three other prisoners still alive, without any signs of fear like screaming but silently praying.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

We no longer have gas chambers but atrocities against human life continue in our time, hiding in the pretext of science and laws. Until now, men and women, young and old alike including those not yet born in their mother’s womb are hunted and killed to correct what many perceived as excesses and wrongs in the society. Just like what Hitler and his men have thought of the Jews at that time.

The Nazi officers and soldiers of Auschwitz remind us the true “ghosts” or evil spirits of our time sowing hatred and deaths are people who may be well-dressed, even educated in the best schools, and come from devout or “normal” families. They sow evil every day without choosing any particular month, blindly following orders without much thinking and reflections or introspection.

By the lives of the many great saints of August, or of any other month for that matter, we are reminded especially in this time of the pandemic that holiness is not being sinless but simply being filled with God, allowing that holiness to spill over and flow onto others with our lives of authenticity to the truth of God among us in Christ expressed in charity and mercy, kindness and justice, humility and openness with one another.

It is very sad and depressing to watch in the news and social media feeds how some among us continue to display their lack of any concern at all with the suffering people with their lavish lifestyles and display of expensive clothes and food. And worst of all are those men and women, in power or hungry for power, in their excessive display of brute force against the weak and the poor.

Let us make every month holy and blessed with our good deeds to make everyone aware of Christ’s presence among us.

Photo from inquirer.net.

Looking intently

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 30 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18   ><]]]]*> ><)))'> ><]]]]*>   Luke 4:16-30
From Forbes.com
"Rolling up the scroll,
Jesus handed it back to the attendant
and sat down, and the eyes of all in the
synagogue looked intently at him."
(Luke 4:20)
So many times in life, Lord,
we are like your townsfolk in Nazareth
who looked intently at you after
proclaiming the scriptures,
after saying or doing something
so beautiful.
But, what do we "looked intently at" you, Jesus?

Is it really you whom we look at?
Is it the Father whom we try to look and find
in you, his mercy and love?
Or, it is still our very selves
 with all our personal interests,
 of what we can have from you,
that we look intently at you?
"Then we who are alive,
who are left, will be caught up
together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another 
with these words."
(1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)
How funny, O God our Father,
how the early Christians also looked intently
for the Second Coming of your Son Jesus
while us in this time no longer look forward
for that great day of "new heaven, new earth";
people hardly looked intently to you these days
and if ever they do so, most often
because with our personal interests.
Give us the grace, dear God,
to start looking intently again to you
and for you in Christ Jesus,
in his coming to "bring glad tidings to the poor,
to claim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to you"
(Luke 4:18-19).
In this time of the pandemic
when so many are suffering
and getting sick
and dying,
let us look intently anew
to everyone with love and respect,
kindness and compassion
as if we are looking at you
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

“Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo” by Yano (1994)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 29 August 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It is the last Sunday of August, the month we celebrate our National Language as we offer an Original Pilipino Music (OPM) that perfectly fits our gospel today about sincerity of our heart against all forms of hypocrisy, Yano’s “Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo” (Holy Dog, Saintly Horse).

Released in 1994, Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo is a cut from the band’s first album simply titled “Yano”. The band is composed of Dong Abay on vocals and Eric Gancio in guitar.

Many think Yano is from the word “Probinsiyano” or one coming from the province (probinsiya) or rural area; but, according to the band’s founder Abay in one account, yano means “simple” in their old Tagalog spoken in Quezon province.

Yano’s music is a fusion of western and ethnic Filipino but what set them apart from the other bands of the 90’s was their deep social and political themes. Unlike some bands who were just cute, Yano had depth and meaning in their songs that were poetic and even eclectic expressed in casual Filipino. One can notice right away the conviction when Abay sings even if the melody may sound light and easy like Kumusta Na, even playful (Esem)or sometimes mischievous (Tsinelas and Senti).

Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo is “spiritual” in a sense; it opens with a man laughing sarcastically with “Hihihihihi…” to introduce some vignettes of daily hypocrisies among us:

Kaharap ko sa jeep ang isang ale
Nagrorosaryo, mata n'ya'y nakapikit
Pumara sa may kumbento
"Sa babaan lang po", sabi ng tsuper, "kase may nanghuhuli"
Mura pa rin nang mura ang ale

Banal na aso, santong kabayo
Natatawa ako, hi-hi-hi-hi
Banal na aso, santong kabayo
Natatawa ako, hi-hi-hi-hi
Sa 'yo

Like today’s gospel, Banal na Aso, Santong Kabayo is timely during this pandemic when even if we have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands and all the prayers to recite to stop COVID-19, the virus will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. Washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities (https://lordmychef.com/2021/08/28/two-hands-and-a-heart-in-between/).

May the music of Yano help you in examining your heart today.

Have blessed week ahead!

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

From YouTube.com.

Two hands and a heart in-between

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXII-B in Ordinary Time, 29 August 2021
Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-8 >+< James 1:17-18, 21-22, 27 >+< Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23
Photo by the author, the Holy Land, 2017.

After an interruption of five weeks, we go back to Mark’s Gospel this Sunday that shall guide us until the end of our liturgical calendar with the Solemnity of Christ the King in November. See the beauty of the Sacred Scriptures that those five weeks from John chapter six did not break the flow of narration that is so seamless!

Returning to Mark’s account today after the feeding of five thousand and the bread of life discourse at Capernaum from John, Jesus crossed the lake and proceeded with the Twelve to Gennesaret where he preached and healed until some of his enemies arrived and found an issue to raise against him.

When the Pharisees with some scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, they observed that some of his disciples ate their meals with unclean, that is, unwashed hands. For the Pharisees and, in fact, all Jews, do not eat without carefully washing their hands, keeping the tradition of the elders. So the Pharisees and scribes questioned him, “Why do your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders but instead eat a meal with unclean hands?” He responded, “Well did Isaiah prophesy about you hypocrites… You disregard God’s commandment but cling to human tradition.”

Mark 7:1-3, 5-8

The Israelites have taken pride in their laws given by Moses from God at Mt. Sinai. Simply referred to as the Law or Torah, it had united them as God’s “chosen people”, making it the very center of their lives that they enlarged its meaning and scope that soon consisted of more than 600 other precepts and practices to observe and keep.

Obeying the laws and traditions became their standard for holiness so that instead of becoming a means to bring them closer to God and others, these became an end in itself that they have forgotten God and others in the process.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2016.

Into our hearts and the heart of Jesus

Once again, our gospel is so timely and relevant to our situation right now we are in the midst of a pandemic when we are told to always wash our hands. And if Jesus were with us in person today, he would surely speak the same things about the hypocrisy we have in our washing of hands!

First of all, let us clarify that Jesus is not against the washing of hands before eating nor of any of their other traditions and laws; what he criticized was the greater importance given by his enemies with the outward signs of their laws and traditions, forgetting its inner dynamics and meaning. Thus, he never failed to clarify with the people that he had “not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Mt.5:17).

Here we find the same problem with the people at Capernaum and in our own time when people fail and refuse to look beyond material things to find the meaning of what is going on around us, of what we believe in and what we practice.

Then and now – right in the midst of this pandemic – Jesus is inviting us to deeper perspectives about our concepts and ways of doing and seeing things, of what is clean and not clean, of what is tradition and modern, of what is good and evil.

Jesus wants us to constantly examine our lives for our need of conversion of our hearts to him. He is inviting us to probe our hearts and see who or what dwells inside us because from the heart, everything flows outside not only to our mouth (cf. Lk.6:45, “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”) but also to our hands.

That is why I love that imagery of the heart between two arms and hands: the heart at the center of our being and consciousness that whatever comes out of the heart naturally flows to our arms and hands, even to our entire body. If there is something wrong in the heart, so with the messages it sends out.

Photo by Designecologist on Pexels.com

He summoned the crowd again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand. Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person; but the things that come out from within are what defile.” “From within people, from their hearts, come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly. All these evils from within and they defile.”

Mark 7:14-15, 21-23

Here we find the essential question we must ask ourselves always: Do I find Jesus Christ in my heart as the sole basis and foundation of what I believe which I also say and do?

If we cannot find Jesus at the center of the things we do and believe, most likely we do not find others in the picture too! In that case, most likely, it is all about me, mine, my, and I! Like the Pharisees and scribes of his time, washing of hands and other traditions were more of a show than something more essential which is to serve God through one another.


Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, 
of our interior and spiritual motivations, 
of why we are doing the things we are doing, 
of what we really believe in; 
because, too often, many of the things we do and believe 
are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God.  
There are so many times in our lives 
that we simply do things out of habit 
and conventions without really understanding why.  

Jesus is now leading us to a sincere examination of our hearts, of our interior and spiritual motivations, of why we are doing the things we are doing, of what we really believe in; because, too often, many of the things we do and believe are not really rooted in our hearts nor with God. There are so many times in our lives that we simply do things out of habit and conventions without really understanding why.

Simon Sinek said it so well in his bestselling book “Start with Why” – people buy products, patronize services, or are moved when they see the why you do things; they are willing to pay more not because of fad or prestige but more of the conviction in a belief espoused by a brand or company or by an individual.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images in Paranaque City, 09 February 2020.

Washing of hands and eating, our hidden hypocrisies

One of the most frequently asked question by people to me as a priest these days is why despite all our prayers, God has seemed become deaf to our pleas for him to end this pandemic? The answer is simple: unless we see and accept the spiritual realities of this COVID-19 pandemic, it would linger with us longer than projected, even not be solved at all as it gets worst with new variants that have thrown back even some of the most vaccinated nations lately.

We can have all the soaps and alcohol to wash our hands during this pandemic but COVID-19 will persist for as long as we have no regard for the dignity of every person. See all the abuses and corruption going on that is more sickening than the virus itself!

That washing of hands is an imagery full of meanings we have lost since the time of Jesus. Inwardly, the washing of hands means washing of one’s heart, of cleansing ourselves of our sins and self-centeredness and other impurities.

So many times we have become like Pontius Pilate who washed his hands to free himself from any guilt in sentencing Christ to death without realizing the more he had implicated himself to the injustice by refusing to make a stand for what is true and just. Like us today, we keep on washing our hands in the hope that our conscience would be at peace or be not bothered with our indifference for what is true and good.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son, 2019.

Washing of hands has always been closely related with eating which is an act of “appropriating something we cannot fully have” like when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They took something they cannot wholly take or “swallow” that is why all they could do was just take a “bite” that opened their eyes to something they could not fully realize and appreciate. There are so many realities in this life we just cannot fully grasp right away, requiring us to have more faith, more patience in trusting God and those above us.

But, like Adam and Eve, we keep on taking a bite, of eating whatever our limited minds and reason find as “good” to have. And we wash our hands in clear hypocrisies like the Pharisees and scribes in worship and prayer when we lead double lives, when we laugh and cheer at all kinds of lies and filth, when we silently approve attacks against human life like tokhang and abortion.

Every day we wash our hands and keep them clean to avoid contaminating our food and body in hypocrisy as we agree and support in the name of “modernism” these trends of same sex relationships, promiscuity, and divorce. Or of graft and corruption we have resigned to accept as a fact of daily life.

To wash our hands is to wash our hearts clean of all kinds of evil, of mediocrity and indifference, of taking a stand to “pass over” from sin into grace by witnessing God’s goodness in our lives as Moses reminded Israel in the first reading.

The hands and the heart always go together as expressed in the Jewish thought of “mercy of the heart” and “mercy of the hand” when God’s mercy is more than a feeling but an act of righteousness, of justice and love.

Let us heed the reminder of the Apostle in the second reading to be truly clean in our hands and in our hearts: “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world” (James 1:22, 27).

Stay safe everyone. Have a blessed week ahead! Amen.

Aral ng lumot sa panahon ng pandemya

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-25 ng Agosto 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda sa Tam-Awan, Baguio City, 2018.
Minsan isang umagang kay panglaw
sikat at busilak ng araw aking tinatanaw
ako ay gininaw sa malagim na katotohanan
hindi pa rin papanaw 
at patuloy pang hahataw 
pananalasa nitong pandemya;
Kahit mayroon nang bakuna
dumarami pa rin mga nahahawa
isang paalala maaring lumala pa
bago humupa at tuluyang mawala na.
Noon din ay aking namataan 
mga tumutubong halaman 
sa kapaligiran tila nagsasabi
huwag susuko
magpatuloy sa paglago
ano man ang panahon
tagtuyot o pag-ulan
manatiling luntian
maski mga dahon lamang
saka na mga bulaklak at bunga.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Malagos Gardens, Davao City, Agosto 2017.
Pinakamahalaga
manatiling buhay at umunlad
sa gitna ng karahasan
aral ng mga halaman
sa ati'y kay lalim at
napakayaman sa
kahulugan na maari nating
tularan at gamiting aral
na gagabay sa ating buhay
ngayong panahon ng pandemya.
Sa lahat ng halaman
na lubos kong kinagigiliwan
bukod sa hindi ko kailangang
mga ito ay alagaan 
ay ang mga lumot
sa sumusulpot 
maski sa mga sulok-sulok 
na kahit malimot
tutubo at lalago, kakapal
parang alpombra sa mga paa!
Hindi gaanong naabot
ng liwanag itong lumot
ngunit kay lamig sa paningin
kay gandang tanawin
kung ating susuriin
nagsasabi sa atin
ng himig ng lilim at dilim
tinig na mahalumigmig;
hindi man masikatan ng araw
mayroon din busilak sa kadiliman!
Paalala sa atin ng mga lumot
ngayon ang panahon ay masalimuot
katotohanan at kagandahan
nitong ating buhay
bumubukal saan man malagay;
Maykapal sa ati'y hindi humihiwalay
pahalagahan at pangalagaan
lahat ng ating taglay
dahil walang kapantay ating buhay, 
mas makulay sa ano mang halaman
lalo't higit sa lumot
huwag sanang iyan ay malimot.
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, Agosto 2019.