Passion, not efficiency

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-Seventh Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 03 October 2022
Galatians 1:6-12   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 10:25-37
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.
Praise and glory
to you, O God our loving Father!
Thank you for this great
Monday, the first working
day of October!
Stir into flame your gift
to me, dear God, (2 Tim. 1:6),
fill me with zest 
fill me with passion
fill me with life
to forge on amid all
the difficulties and trials
this day
this week
may bring to me.
Like the zeal 
and enthusiasm
of St. Paul,
let me be firm
in asserting your 
Good News of salvation
in Christ Jesus:
"If I were still trying 
to please people, 
I would not be a slave
of Christ" (Galatians 1:10c).
Keep me faithful to you,
Lord, and stop me from
pretending somebody
else, impressing people
by claiming to be your
disciple in all of its outward
signs without your Cross.

Keep me faithful to you,
Lord and stop me from 
seeking attention,
perks and privileges
to be famous by claiming
to be your disciple but
afraid to suffer, afraid of 
losing, afraid of failures.

Keep me faithful to you,
Lord, not to the cultic 
signs and symbols we have
developed in deepening our
faith in you but, like the
priest and the Levite in 
your parable today, 
have totally disregarded 
the wounded and sick, 
the abandoned and
lost, the sinful and poor.
Deepen my faith,
strengthen my faith
to have passion in doing
your works, Lord; 
forgive me, Jesus,
when I think and see more
of efficiency and programs
without meeting and
experiencing persons,
building relationships
in you, with you, and
through you.
Amen.

Mary, our model disciple, companion in the mission

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September 2022
Hebrews 5:7-9     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     John 19:25-27
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
A day after celebrating
the Feast of the Exaltation 
of the Cross, you remind us today
dear Jesus of your most wonderful
gift to us, a companion and a model in
discipleship, Mary your Mother.
Being the first disciple,
Mary was the first to receive
and welcome you at your Annunciation, 
the first to truly believe in you when she 
immediately told you how the newly-wed
couple ran out of wine at Cana, 
and the first to remain in you at the foot 
of the Cross; there at the Cross as your
Sorrowful Mother, Mary taught us the most
important aspect of discipleship:  intimacy 
in you and with you in prayer.

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. 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 19:25-27
As I prayed on this memorial of 
Our Lady of Sorrows, I wondered what
was your Mother Mary was doing there
at the foot of your Cross, Lord Jesus? 
More than the tears and sorrow on her
face as portrayed in arts, 
all I can see and experience 
at her most lovely face, O Lord,
is a disciple so absorbed in prayer,
so united and close with you!
How sad, dear Jesus, that many
of us have forgotten this very
important aspect of discipleship
your Mother had shown us, 
a life centered on prayer;
more than reciting prayers,
it is residing in you, Jesus!
Teach us, dear Jesus,
to be like Mary, to truly take
her like the disciple you loved
of being intimate with you and the
Father in prayers; her standing at the
foot of your Cross did not simply happen
at the spur of the moment; it was the highest
moment of her long periods of time spent in
prayers, of communing with you and in you;
many times, we only come to you when we are
standing at your Cross, when trials and 
difficulties happen but when everything is
going well, we hardly remembered you nor be
with you at prayer.
All her life, 
Mary lived her life in 
prayer in you and with you
dear Jesus; when the Pentecost
happened, she was praying 
with your disciples at the Upper 
Room awaiting the coming of the
Holy Spirit; teach us, Lord Jesus,
that discipleship is essentially
prayer; whatever we do, 
it is always borne out of prayer.
Our Lady of Sorrows,
pray for us your children,
especially your priests who are
supposed to be disciples too of
your Son to immerse ourselves
in prayer first of all because before 
all else came, there was Jesus Christ
who came first calling us,
sending us on a mission to 
proclaim the good news to everyone.
Amen.

Conviction & Commitment to Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 04 September 2022
Wisdom 9:13-18 ><}}}}*> Philemon 9-10 ><}}}}*> Luke 14:25-33
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019, Malolos Cathedral Basilica.

One of the most moving parts of the rite of ordination to the priesthood as well at profession of vows by nuns is when they prostrate in front of the church altar to signify their total conviction and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ.

What a beautiful image of the nature and essence of discipleship requiring great sacrifices to faithfully persevere to the end in Jesus who is always the highest priority of our lives, not only of priests and religious but lay people alike for we are all called to a life of holiness.

We find this conviction and commitment to Jesus in Paul’s own experience while in prison when the slave of his friend Philemon named Onesimus fled to seek refuge in him and eventually converted into Christianity.


Conformity and fidelity to the gospel 
is beyond morality 
because it is an adherence 
to the person of Jesus Christ.

It must have been a difficult situation for Paul if found harboring a runaway slave, Onesimus, who in turn could face death as punishment for his act. Remember that slavery was normal during Paul’s time and even if he did not preach directly against its institution, here in this short powerful letter of just 25 verses he planted the seeds for its destruction when he stressed that Onesimus is Philemon’s “brother in the Lord”.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, 29 August 2022.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

Philemon 15-17

Many times in life, we realize that fidelity to the gospel can be entirely unreasonable like when we have to be like Philemon whom Paul had asked to believe in the sincerity of the conversion of Onesimus his slave when it seemed to be more of convenience or merely circumstantial. Most of all, how could we receive another as a “beloved brother in the Lord” to whom we owe nothing at all when in fact who had hurt us in the first place! Conformity and fidelity to the gospel is beyond morality because it is an adherence to the person of Jesus Christ, of our communion with him and in him as his disciples.

Are we willing to go that far, of leaving everything behind, even our loved ones, our very selves for Jesus like what the gospel asks us today?

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:25-27
Photo by author, Stations of the Cross, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, June 2022.

It is already September and we have only about 12 weeks to go before closing this liturgical year to prepare for Christmas with the Advent Season. Jesus is fast approaching Jerusalem and great crowds were already following him.

However, Jesus was very much aware too of the mixed crowd following him where many were simply curious, some were interested, still searching for more proofs perhaps while a few of them were already committed.

How about us today?

See how Luke presented Jesus resolutely journeying to Jerusalem when he turned to face the crowd that includes us today to issue two important lessons about discipleship, hating those dearest to us including our very selves and, second, carrying our cross.


There comes a time in our lives 
when the only explanation, 
the only justification, 
and the only reason 
why we do something unthinkable 
even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is not asking us to literally hate our family and friends or even our very selves; the word hate in this passage refers more to action than emotion, of doing something that others would surely hate like when we do not give in to their requests to support them in a lie or something not fair and just, or simply sinful and evil. We have experienced how it is actually more difficult to being good Christians doing God’s will, doing what is right and good that are exactly not what our family and friends are doing and would want us to also do. And that is why, when we do not go with them and their whims and caprices, they think we “hate” them.

Following Jesus means putting him first always, even above our loved ones that they always misinterpret as our lack of love and concern for them.

But more difficult than that is hating our very selves, doing a Philemon for the many Onesimus in our lives. There comes a time in our lives when the only explanation, the only justification, and the only reason why we do something unthinkable even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. And that is when we have to hate our selves like when we forgo vengeance, let go of some debts, forget all about technicalities and legalities because we love Jesus. It is really foolish by world standards that sometimes one comes to hate one’s self too for letting go and letting God.

Photo by author, detail of Seventh Station of the Cross in the Parish of San Ildefonso, Tanay, Rizal with a man wearing shades, January 2021.

Meanwhile, to carry one’s cross is more than patiently accepting our human conditions of suffering and sickness, weakness and trials in life. This understanding of carrying one’s cross implies passivity as if the difficulty we are into is something that just happened and fell on our lap or shoulder that we simply have to accept them in the name of Christ.

That is very good and highly commendable but, Jesus wants a more active participation from us. To carry one’s cross is to voluntarily choose and accept a difficulty in life as a direct consequence of our conviction in and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord and Teacher!

This is the reason Jesus presented us with two parables after sounding his call to discipleship, that one of building a tower and of a general going to war. The two men in these parables had to calculate the cost of their efforts, of how much they have to sacrifice and give to be successful in their endeavors lest they become laughing stocks in the community. The same is true with each one of us today as disciples of Jesus.

“In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce his possession cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:33

Of course, Jesus gives us the grace to become good disciples but grace builds on nature; how much are we willing to sacrifice, to renounce even our very selves to truly follow Jesus through and through?

Kaya mo ba?

Photo from gettyimages.com.

Discipleship in Christ is being devoted to him in the same manner he is devoted to the Father toward whom he is drawing us. There is no other Way but Jesus alone. Therefore, to be his disciple means to prefer nothing to Christ who is our very life, our being, our end.

There is no room for mediocrity in being his disciple. We have seen in history and in our very lives how superficial discipleship had caused more damages to the Church and to each one of us when we fail to be committed to our calls. Despite our long years of seminary formation, many of us priests miserably fail in our discipleship with the many scandals that plague the Church these days, not to mention the endless complaints by people of how their pastors do not prepare homilies nor celebrate Mass daily and worst, refuse to answer sick calls! On the other hand, many families and most especially children have been destroyed by the separations of many couples who have refused to learn of letting go of themselves to let God work in their relationships. Then, there are the siblings who fight simply because they cannot let go of their principles and egos and wealth that matter most to them than their brother or sister, or even parents!

This Sunday, let us pray for God’s counsels, for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit as expressed in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom so we may not simply know what is good but most of all lead holy lives by experiencing God daily as his disciples. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The power & wisdom of God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Twenty-first Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 26 August 2022
1 Corinthians 1:17-25   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Matthew 25:1-13
Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2015.
Praise and glory to you,
God our Father for this weekend;
we have passed a week of many discomforts
from the opening of classes,
followed by a strong typhoon,
a weak market and economy
marred by all kinds of shortages
but, here we are, Lord, still alive,
still well amid all the sufferings
and trials because of your gift of
FAITH.
Thank you, dear God, for this
wondrous gift of FAITH brought
to us, sustained in us, made beloved
in us by your Son Jesus Christ 
in his Cross.
For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but for those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. 
1 Corinthian 1:22-25
Many times, we take our faith
for granted without realizing it is
one of your most important gifts
to us; it is in faith where everything
in this life begins:  we cannot hope,
we cannot love if we do not believe!
And this faith as gift has come to us,
continues to be poured upon us
by its most beautiful sign, the CROSS.
Teach us to be wiser, dear Jesus,
like those virgins in your parable,
to embrace and love your CROSS;
it is not all suffering and pain but
gain and addition in life of more
wisdom and more power so that we
can be more loving and merciful,
kind and forgiving, generous and caring
in your most Holy Name.
Amen.

Easter is “levelling up” in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Second Week of Easter, 26 April 2022
Acts 4:32-37   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 3:7-15
Photo by author, Puerto del Dol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.
Praise and glory to you,
my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ!
Your Resurrection remains a mystery
that is so beyond descriptions
and reasons because it is of 
another dimension, of another world;
yet, I am so convinced of its truth
and reality because I have experienced
you so many times in simple occasions
in life that deep inside, I burst with
joy and conviction like Thomas
and the disciple you love.
Grant me the grace, dear Jesus,
to level up in my understanding and
looking at things in myself and around
me; help me to level up, to be "born from 
above" as you have told Nicodemus:

Jesus answered and said to him, “You are the teacher of Israel and you do not understand this? Amen, amen, I say to you, we speak of what we know and we testify to what we have seen, but you people do not accept our testimony. If I tell you about earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?”

John 3:10-12
By your Resurrection, 
you have paved the way for us
to enter into new levels of 
living, of seeing things like
"the community of believers
who were of one heart and mind,
and no one claiming any of his
possessions as his own as they
had everything in common";
most of all, "there was no needy
person among them" as they
cared for one another (Acts 4:32-34).
Continue to transform me,
dear Jesus, deepen my faith
in you by further going down
in humility and simplicity to
be uplifted in you on your Cross.
Amen.

Holiness is in the Cross

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Good Friday, 15 April 2022
Isaiah 52:13-53:12  +  Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9  +  John 18: 1-19:42
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, ICS Chapel, 2016; sculpture by National Artist Ed Castrillo.

Perhaps, today we can truly feel the meaning and gravity of our favorite expression when somebody looks so sad and gloomy, when somebody seems to have been totally lost: “Biyernes Santong Biyernes Santo”.

That is Good Friday for us – so negative in the sense it is so sad and gloomy, so painful and too difficult but, good. 

Good Friday is so negative for us because it means death of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Nothing would be more sad than that.

But thanks to this COVID-19 pandemic we have been living inversely or “baligtad” as we say. We would always pray at every swab test for the virus that we be “negative”.

Never has been thinking negative has become so positive, so good, in fact!

And it all began more than 2000 years ago at the calvary when Jesus offered himself for us on the cross.

That is why Good Friday is called “Good”: the cross of Jesus Christ is a sign not of death but of the good news, of the gospel of life, hope, and eternal life.

The cross of Jesus Christ is not a negative sign (-) but a positive sign, a plus sign (+).

We celebrate in the most solemn and unique way because the cross is no longer a sign of condemnation but honor. Before, it was a symbol of death but now a means of salvation. The cross of Christ has been the source of countless blessings for us, illuminating our path with light when our lives are so dark with sins and mistakes, sickness and disappointments. Most of all, the cross of Christ has brought us closer to God again and with one another despite our sins and past, promising us a bright a joyful Easter.

Yes, for some the cross of Christ is so negative: why display the body of the Lord everywhere in our churches and homes, bloodied and defeated, lifeless and dead?

See, my servant shall prosper, he shall be raised high and greatly exalted…for those who have not been told shall see, those who have not heard shall ponder it.

Isaiah 52:13-15

Many times in life, and we have proven this, God uses many of our “negative” experiences to lead us to more positive outcome and results.

Yes, we may be Biyernes Santong Biyernes Santo in sadness and fear, even anxieties.

But, we continue to pray and forge on with life’s trials and difficulties because we see the cross of Jesus Christ leading us to light and life, joy and celebration of his Resurrection at Easter.

In the Cross is found holiness. It is on the Cross of Christ when we are filled with God when like Jesus we are able to give up ourselves, when we are finished (Jn. 19:30) for God to start his life and work again.

I have not prepared any specific prayer this Good Friday. Just be silent and if you have a cross or crucifix with you now, let us all kneel and thank God in giving us Jesus Christ who brought out so many positive things in our lives out of the many negative experiences we have had lately in life.  Amen.

Photo by author, 2019.

Standing up for Jesus, with Jesus

Homily at the Baccalaureate Mass by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Chaplain, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 01 April 2022
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22   <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Photos by ANGELA WEISS/AFP | Robyn Beck/AFP from aleteia.org, 28 March 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of 2022 – our first batch to finally have a face-to-face graduation after two years in the COVID-19 pandemic!

Graduation is a high moment in life, specially at this time of the pandemic. You are a rare one among the rest. And so, like Mr. Denzel Washington, let me remind you my dear graduates and your families too that …

"At your highest moment, be careful, 
that's when the devil comes for you."
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Very true, my dear graduates.

What is very striking (no pun intended) is that it came from a celebrity star in Hollywood which is the bastion of everything worldly, and contrary to anything spiritual. So nice indeed of Mr. Washington who is not only a very fine actor but also a deeply spiritual person.

Imitate him.

After your graduation, there will still be more high moments coming into your life, so be very, very careful because the devil will never stop tempting you in order to destroy your life and crush your dreams

In your four or more years of studies and stay here at Our Lady of Fatima University, you must have felt in various ways the temptations and misleadings by the devil, dividing your mind, blinding your sight, telling you with so many seemingly valid reasons why you should just stop and go home, that nothing good will happen in this frustrating online classes.

Like in our first reading today, you must have felt many times telling yourself what the author of the Book of Wisdom experienced:

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

Wisdom 2:1, 13, 17, 20
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2019.

Praise God and congratulate yourselves for a job well done, dear graduates. You have passed the tests of your professors and teachers, and most especially overcome the temptations of the devil to destroy your beautiful plans of “rising to the top”, of becoming a doctor or a nurse or a medtech or a teacher or a seafarer.

Today we thank God in this Holy Mass that you have remained faithful to him, standing by his side in Jesus Christ at the Cross of sufferings and trials. Two things I wish to share with you, batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University to avoid the devil from destroying you.

First is to always stand and witness the truth of God who loves us so much even if we believe more in ourselves, in our science and technology. How unfortunate that despite the world’s sophistications and advancements in the sciences, we still have wars going on, we still have abuses in words and in deed happening right in front of us like that slapping incident at the Oscars. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech at the beginning of the American involvement at the Vietnam War in the 1960’s that “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Always stand for what is true which is our motto, Veritas.

Truth is not just an object but also a subject, a person when Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6). This we find when we examine the origin of the word “true” which came from the Anglo-Saxon “treowe” for “tree” that connotes something firm. And that is what is always true, firm and unchanging, never flimsy like lies and falsehoods. Like the tree, truth cannot be shaken nor moved for it will always be the same.

It is very interesting that from the Anglo-Saxon word “treowe” for tree came also its related word “trust” because where there is truth, there is always trust which connotes relationship. That is why the concept of “family tree” came also from the Anglo-Saxons who saw their family like a tree – a firm tree have deep roots with many connections or links. Wherever there is truth, there is also trust and relationships that lead to community borne out of commonality and sameness. Very close to this concept is the Latin genus from which came generation and gender that both refer to being of one or the same kind. Like trust related to true, the word related with gender and generation is generosity which is the act of giving that comes from knowledge of belonging and intimacy.

Hence, a truthful person is always a generous one, someone who can be trusted because he/she is always one with others. Never forget your beloved alma mater, Our Lady of Fatima University, your mentors and professors, your classmates and friends with whom you all shared the truth, whom you have trusted and shared common passion and brought you to graduation day.

At your highest moment in life, be careful, stand for what is true, think of others, be generous with them and most of all, stand for God by standing with Jesus at the foot of his Cross.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

Second, to keep you away from the devil in your high moments in life after your graduation, do not forget the other motto of our dearest alma mater, misericordia, mercy and compassion. From two Latin words, miseor and cor that literally mean to move the heart, mercy is more than a feeling but something that leads also into a concrete action. As I have told you in some of my talks, the Jews have that concepts of mercy of the heart and mercy of the hand that must always go together. It is not enough to feel the pain of another person but that feeling moves you to do something to ease that person’s pain.

One problem in our world today is how people have absolutized truth, always insisting on what they believe as true even in many occasions what they believe is not true at all. Nonetheless, let us remember that only God is absolute. We have realized and experienced in the past that truth can be so painful. To witness the truth of God is to be merciful and compassionate by enabling others to be liberated from their painful realities in life – not to bury and cement them in their sad predicament.

Being merciful, being compassionate in this time is to move away from the way of the world that is based on fame and power, always competing with somebody else for more likes and followers. To be merciful like God is to find the enormous giftedness we have that must be shared with those who have less in life, with those who suffer most, with those who cry in pain in silence.

This coming Sunday we shall the story of the woman caught in adultery, at how Jesus liberated the sinful woman from her miserable state in life made worst by the public shaming her, wanting to condemn her in public. See the beautiful image of Jesus bending down, not looking at the woman, letting her experience God’s mercy, offering her a chance to become better.

In today’s gospel, Jesus dared to speak the truth of God despite threats to his life because that mission was very clear to him.

As you embark on a new phase in life with more high moments as well as more challenges, more pains and hurts, never give the devil a chance to destroy you and your lives. Stay close to Jesus Christ. Stand with Jesus at the foot of his Cross, especially when everybody feels to be standing more on their own pedestals of fame and glory founded on shaky grounds. The path to higher moments in life with Jesus and in Jesus is to join him in his Cross, of going down in love and humility.

During these pandemic years, God has remained true and merciful with you, with everyone, with us, staying with us and never leaving us in our lowest moments. Let us do the same with many others losing hope and meaning in life in this time of the pandemic by sharing God’s truth and mercy so that others may experience some joy in life. Amen.

From Our Lady of Fatima University/FB.

Lent is standing with Jesus

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 01 April 2022
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22   <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
As we move closer 
to the final week of Lent
leading to the Holy Week,
give me the courage, O God
our loving Father to confront my
true self and be true before you.
Let me strip myself naked 
before you, merciful Lord, minus
all my masks and pretensions
to truly examine myself:
on whose side am I really with,
with you or the enemies?
A lot often, when we feel we are good
and virtuous, and most especially when
we are indeed good and virtuous, we 
believe that people are inspired to 
follow our example; but, in reality, the
opposite happens.  Like in our first
reading today when the wicked dare to test
us, subjecting us to many evils:

Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

Wisdom 2:17-20
Yes, the words of the author
refer to Jesus Christ your Son
and our Lord but, so many times
we have felt challenged by almost 
everyone if like our Lord, we could 
bear all their taunts and tortures; 
in the gospel, you courageously stood 
and spoke dear Jesus in public 
during the Feast of the Tabernacles 
despite threats of being arrested 
and killed!
Purify me, O God,
to witness your truth, justice,
and love, avoiding any taint of
Pharisaism or holier-than-thou
attitudes so common these days, 
pretending to be a victim when
in fact a victimizer.
There were three crosses
on that Good Friday at the Calvary:
lead me to the true Cross,
standing at the foot of the Lord
Jesus Christ, witnessing his
love and mercy, justice and 
peace.  Amen.

Imitating St. Matthew

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. Matthew, Apostle, 22 September 2021
Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13   ><}}}'> + <'{{{><   Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, pilgrims ready to walk at a site in Jerusalem, the Holy Land, May 2019.

As Jesus passed by, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the customs post. He said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

Matthew 9:9
We know for sure, dear Jesus Christ
that you are always passing by,
calling us to follow you but
most often, we do not see you,
or worst, we refuse to look at you
nor listen to you.
Forgive us, dear Jesus
for choosing to be contented
and comfortable on our seats -
especially on those seats of power;
sorry when we are so glued on
our seats watching mostly trash
on television and internet;
drag us, if you may, if we choose
to be stuck on our seats of all
kinds of vices and sins.
Give us the grace, O Lord Jesus
of imitating St. Matthew
who immediately heeded your call:
open our eyes and our ears
to await your daily coming to us;
may we have the will and resolve
to change ourselves, to arise from our
being seated and slumped on our 
comfort zones of mediocrity and sins;
most of all, strengthen our knees and our feet,
our limbs that as we arise 
to listen to your voice, we may follow
you closely every step of the way
to the Cross.

Brothers and sisters: I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:1-3
Merciful Jesus Christ,
teach us to forget our desires
for positions and recognition,
for fame, power and wealth;
make us realize that what really
matters is not where we are seated
but where we make a stand -
and to how far can we go walking
in standing up for you always.
Like St. Matthew, 
your Apostle and Evangelist,
let us arise and follow you
daily in faith, hope and love
as we write another gospel of
 Jesus Christ according to each one of us.
Amen.

The Paradox of the Cross

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday XXV-B in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2021
Wisdom 2:12, 17-20 ><]]]]'>James 3:16-4:3 ><]]]]'> Mark 9:30-37
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.

From the pagan capital of Caesarea Philippi where he revealed himself as the Christ or Messiah, Jesus turned back to travel south towards Jerusalem to fulfill his mission. He did not want people to know about his journey as he was intensively teaching the Twelve with important lessons before his approaching pasch.

For the second time, he mentioned to the Twelve of his coming Passion, Death and Resurrection but they did not understand it again; but, instead of asking Jesus for explanations, they argued among themselves who was the greatest, presumably thinking who would get the best post once Jesus becomes “king”.

Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it. He was teaching his disciples and telling them, “The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and they were afraid to question him. They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest.

Mark 9:30-34

The pandemic as a prolonged sabbath

This whole pandemic period may be considered a prolonged sabbath for everyone when we, along with nature in some instances are asked to take a rest, be silent and still. And return to God. That is the beautiful imagery of Mark telling us last week how from Caesarea Philippi in the north Jesus and the Twelve took a U-turn to go back south towards Jerusalem, hidden and silent.

It is along this way that Jesus is inviting us also to spend these quarantine periods to rediscover him and his teachings. Primary of these lessons from him is the paradox of the Cross, of Christ’s glory in his crucifixion and death that has always been a great stumbling block for many of us throughout the ages.

Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, Baclaran Church, February 2020.

Any disciple of Jesus can easily identify with the Twelve, of not understanding why Jesus had to suffer and die first in order to rise again on the third day. And like the Twelve, we have learned our lessons so well at Caesarea Philippi not to question it or be clarified lest we too are rebuked by the Lord like Peter!

There are times we cry out or complain to God when we are going through sufferings and trials why we have to get sick, why we have to lose a loved one, why we have to fail, why we have to suffer so much when we have tried our very best to be good and honest, sharing our time, talent, treasures and very selves in loving service to others?

But, let’s accept that it is often a sense of entitlement on our part, of trying to manipulate God when we surreptitiously tell him as if he does not know what we are really thinking and feeling that we are following Jesus to avoid pains and sufferings, or at least to have lighter cross because we believe we are good and better than others, therefore, we deserve better treatment.

And this is also the reason why like the Twelve “along the way”, we argue a lot on who is the greatest because it is better to think of the coming glory than contemplate every Good Friday we go through as Christ’s disciples. Sad to say, there are times we “compete” with one another for having the most pain gone through.

It can happen that whenever we are passing through some difficulties in life that we really do not see Christ at all but our selves alone because we are more focused on the rewards and gains we may have for the efforts, not really sacrifices.

See how Jesus asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?”; recall how he declared during the Last Supper in John’s gospel, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (Jn.4:16). How come we do not see him along the way?

How could we have missed that while we are on the way (of the cross), our thoughts are focused on the coming glory than on Jesus himself in every undertaking? This is the problem with “health and wealth” kind of preaching and ministry when Jesus is more seen as giver and dispenser of material blessings than Lord and Savior. It is a clear case of what Jesus told Peter last week, “you are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Mk.8:33).


"...in this paradox of the cross lies another paradox, 
that of human living wherein the more we try to live uprightly, 
striving to be good and loving, 
the more we are attacked and confused by the devil...
Holiness always engenders hatred
 among men and women filled with evil 
as we have been witnessing in the news lately."

Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, January 2019.

And no wonder, in this paradox of the cross lies another paradox, that of human living wherein the more we try to live uprightly, striving to be good and loving, the more we are attacked and confused by the devil through others as we have observed last week.

Holiness always engenders hatred among men and women filled with evil as we have been witnessing lately in the news. This had been foretold long ago by the author of the Book of Wisdom we have heard in the first reading:

The wicked say: Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.

Wisdom 2:12, 20

Since the fall of Adam and Eve, see how man had always put God on trial like a criminal, being accused with all the miseries and sufferings on earth that reached its lowest point when Jesus was hanging on the cross with his enemies mockingly telling him, “If you are really the Son of God, come down and we will believe… He had saved others, now let him save himself!”.

The core of the paradox of the Cross

At the core of this paradox of the Cross is Jesus Christ’s central teaching of being like a child which he had first expressed clearly in his Incarnation and Birth by the Blessed Virgin Mary – the almighty God being born an infant, so small and so weak just like everyone of us! In coming to us a child and later dying on the cross, Jesus showed us that true greatness is in becoming small to become a part of the larger whole.

Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”

Mark 9:35-37

To be a child means to owe one’s existence to another which we never outgrow even in our adult life. It is an attitude of being open to every possibility in life, an attitude of trusting others, of having clean mind and clean heart.

The world of men, of macho men we love to relish with delight in the secular and even religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of external showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone and everything like the disciples of Jesus.

The tragedy of that scene of the Twelve arguing who among them is the greatest to get the best position when Jesus comes to power continues to happen in our time with some people actually living in darkness are the ones who pretend to be seeing the light that in the process are misleading people towards darkness and destruction! Even in the church when we keep on referring to ourselves as “servants” of the poor when our lifestyles as priests and bishops, nuns and religious are that of the rich and famous!

The key to greatness is to be like a child – be simple, be trusting because children lack jealousy and selfish ambitions which according to James in the second reading are signs of the presence of “disorder and every foul practice” (Jas.3:16).

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

This Sunday, Jesus is inviting us to examine ourselves truly why are we following him?

What have become of us in serving him – argumentative and divisive or welcoming of others especially the weak and marginalized?

Does my way of life speak of who I am as a disciple of Jesus, like a child, open to God and to others?

Have a blessed week, everyone!