Choosing life is choosing the Cross

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 18 February 2021
Deuteronomy 30:15-20     ><)))*> + <*(((><     Luke 9:22-25
Photo by d0n mil0 on Pexels.com

Thank you very much, O dear God our Father, in giving us a most unique Season of Lent this 2021in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, disturbing us and forcing us to finally examine something we have taken for granted so long: our refusal to make final choices in life.

So many times, we would want to “have our cake and eat it too” wherein we keep on postponing major decisions in life in the hope things would take care of itself, that everything would be better without realizing that the longer we refuse to make a definite choice in life, the more we actually choose something wrong and even wasteful.

Moses said to the people: “Today I have set before you life and prosperity, death and doom… I call heaven heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then, that you and your descendants may live, by loving the Lord, your God, heeding his voice, and holding fast to him.”

Deuteronomy 30:15, 19-20

Teach us to finally take into our hearts this Lent, O Lord, that to choose life means taking the difficult path of life, your route of the Passion and Death and Resurrection. Life is not about pleasures and comforts, nor lack of responsibilities nor absence of pain and sufferings.

Too often, we are afraid to choose life because we are afraid of responsibilities, of getting hurt, of letting go, and of forgetting one’ s self; hence, we postpone making any choices at all!

Life is lent, a daily choosing of the cross of Jesus Christ in love and respect, humility and justice through others by denying one’s self, taking one’s cross daily to follow the Lord everywhere. Amen.

Advent is seeing our bright future

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church, 14 December 2020
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17 >><)))*> +++ <*(((><< Matthew 21:23-27
Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday. 13 December 2020.

Time flies so fast, O God our Father. We are now at the penultimate week before Your Son’s birth and sadly, we seem to have been catapulted here without us realizing even earlier because we have been insensitive to your presence.

We have been impatient in awaiting Your daily revelations in little things and not so good experiences happening to us.

How sad that we your people have kept our eyes closed from seeing you coming, doing wondrous things for us like what the pagan diviner Balaam had seen for Israel. He was supposed to curse them but was compelled to bless them upon seeing You and Your great plans for them in the future that included the coming of the Christ.

I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel.

Numbers 24:17

In the gospel, the learned people of your time also refused to see and accept Jesus Christ’s coming, preoccupied with what they knew and only wanted to see just like us today.

Bless us, O Lord, to imitate St. John of the Cross in finding you and your bright future in the midst of the Cross. May these last two weeks of Advent be moments of reflections and prayers for us to find You, to experience You, and see Your bright future in store for us as we follow you to the Cross.

The soul that longs for divine wisdom chooses first, and in truth, to enter the thicket of the cross.

St. John of the Cross, Office of Readings, 14 December 2020

Amen.

Advent, a prelude to Easter

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Advent Week-II, 07 December 2020
Isaiah 35:1-10     >><)))*>  >><)))*>  >><)))*>     Luke 5:17-26
Photo by author, sacristy altar, 05 December 2020.

Your words today, O God are so uplifting, evoking in us springtime when everything is bursting into new life making this Season of Advent a prelude to Easter. And rightly so!

The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, the tongue of the dumb will sing. Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water.

Isaiah 35:1-2, 5-7

But for us to see life bursting forth around us, let us in our selves first desire life, persevere our healing, and keep your gifts of mercy and forgiveness like the men who lowered through the roof a paralyzed man on a stretcher before Jesus while preaching inside a packed house.

Strengthen us to go out and find ways in meeting you, Jesus, like those men.

Forgive us for the many occasions of cynicisms and indifference, as well as arrogance and pride like the scribes and Pharisees who questioned your authority to forgive sins.

As we have reflected yesterday, Advent is a two-way street: you always come, Lord Jesus but we must also come to meet you. So many times you have come to our lives but we never met you, never experienced you nor even felt you because we have always been full of ourselves, of our sins, and of so many other people and things.

Keep us one with you always, Jesus – in your cross, in your humility, in your love.

Like St. Ambrose your great Bishop of Milan, may we lead more souls discover you, Jesus, and experience life anew like St. Augustine, his famous convert. Amen.

Disturb me to follow you, Jesus!

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, 30 November 2020
Romans 10:9-18     >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>     Matthew 4:18-22
Photo by author (May 2019), shore of Galilee at Capernaum where Jesus called the brothers Peter and Andrew to come and follow him.

Praise and glory to you, Lord Jesus Christ, on this second day of Advent you have given us the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle known as the “protoclete” or protokletos, the first to be called to follow you because he was also the first to entertain be “disturbed” by you.

Grant us this grace of being disturbed, of being moved within in a positive manner to seek out the truth like St. Andrew.

The moment he first saw you when John the Baptist identified you as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,” he was there, moved in his heart and so disturbed that he asked you, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  And when you invited him and his companion to “come and see,” he believed you are the Messiah (Jn.1:35-41)!

I wonder what did he see in you, in your home, Lord Jesus that convinced him right away you are the Christ? What disturbed him?

Then in the wilderness as you tested Philip and asked him where you could buy food to feed more than 5000 people, Andrew again felt his heart so disturbed with the situation they were into that he was moved to bring to you a boy with five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish but at the same time, sincerely admitted to you how disturbed he was when he asked you, “what good are these for so many?” 

You never answered his question, dear Jesus, but Andrew remained with you and the crow until the great miracle happened when everyone was fed and satisfied with so many leftovers (Jn.6:1-15)!

St. Andrew must have been more disturbed than ever with what he had seen and experienced that he came to follow you more closely like his brother Peter!

For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.

Romans 10:10

St. Andrew always believed in his heart, always allowed his heart to be disturbed with your words, with your presence, with your feelings.

And he never kept to himself those stirrings in his heart, always asking you or voicing out what he felt or thought no matter how crazy or even stupid they may be!

It was because of this openness with himself to you with his inquiries that you were made known as the Christ that eventually in his death, he chose to be crucified in the most different manner because he had truly owned your cross!

Give me that same grace, dear Jesus, to be honest in recognizing the inner stirrings in my heart no matter how crazy they may be, always telling these to you as part of carrying my cross. Like St. Andrew, may I have the courage to lovingly, faithfully and sincerely embrace your cross by expressing to you always whatever disturbs me that in the process you are more revealed in me and to others. Amen.

Befriending the Cross of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 06 November 2020
Philippians 3:17-4:1     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 16:1-8
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, August 2020.

Sometimes I wonder if we are still in a pandemic, God. It seems we have slowly gone back to our old ways or, even worst as we seem to have totally forgotten you. We have become so used with the new situations we prefer to call as “new normal” as if the norms or standards of what is just and moral, right and true change at all.

Have we become an enemy of your Son’s Cross?

Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame”. Their minds are occupied with earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:17-20

Our loving Father, I am not asking for a return to our situation during the lockdowns of summer with growing number of COVID infections; I am not praying for more crosses to bear as if the ones we now have are not enough. Just help us befriend your Son’s Cross again, to forget ourselves and follow him instead of following more the social media that has become our new god.

How prophetic were the words of St. Paul to the Philippians, Lord! They are all happening especially in social media that has become everyone’s new religion that seemingly binds but actually divides us as a nation, as your children.

From The Facebook Facade – owning30.com

Everybody wants to be in social media, doing all the crazy stuff to be popular by being viral and trending with many followers to boast without realizing what St. Paul referred to as “their glory is their ‘shame'” when we are filled with our ego – or selfies -that we forget you in others.

Many are beginning to accept the lies being peddled in social media like abortion and euthanasia, genetic engineering, same sex marriage or unions, and homosexual relationships that end in destruction.

Facebook and Instagram have become the altars of those who have made their “stomach as their God” flaunting their food in social media, insensitive to the plight of many going hungry these days.

Wake us up to the reality in Jesus of how our “minds are occupied with earthly things” these days that even you our God we have made into a commodity whom we can have when we want like any product or the Netflix when celebrating online Masses.

Help us realize like the steward in the parable that life is about the giving of self in love for others like Jesus – of befriending your Cross – not wealth nor fame. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020.

Praying to be rooted and grounded in love

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. John Paul II, Pope, 22 October 2020 
Ephesians 3:14-21     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Luke 12:49-53
Pope John Paul II waves to well-wishers in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 1978 when he was elected as the 263rd successor to St. Peter (CNS photo/Arturo Mari, L’Osservatore Romano).

One of the things I am so thankful to you, O God our Father in making me live in this generation is your gift to us of a great shepherd in St. John Paul II whose memorial we celebrate today. It is a tremendous blessing from you to grace our years of existence along with a great man like him who had overcome so many difficulties and struggles in life, being orphaned at a very young age from his mother, then from his father and later from his only beloved brother, not to mention his coming from Poland, a country exploited by foreign powers and subjected to communism for the longest time.

In his entire life, Lord, you have always manifested your loving presence in him and destined him to be your sign in this most difficult period in history when men and women have gravely challenged you with so many evil and sins, including some priests you have called to serve.

Praise and glory to you, O God, for the great St. John Paul II, a man rooted and grounded in love!

and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the holy ones what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:17-19

What a beautiful prayer by St. Paul after extolling your love to call us all to be your children by having faith in your Son Jesus Christ!

What a beautiful prayer by St. Paul so perfect for today the memorial of St. John Paul II, a man rooted and grounded in love!

But, beyond the beautiful language, teach us, Father, what is to be rooted and grounded in love to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, to be filled with all of your fullness?

Roots refer to something inside, deep within and hidden, not seen; on the other hand, grounded is something outside, above and seen.

What do you mean, Father?

It is so demanding but that is what to follow you, to be set on a blazing fire of purification in Jesus Christ (Lk. 12:49), to be one with him on the Cross so that inside and outside, we are totally yours with Mary like St. John Paul II’s Totus Tuus!

St. John Paul II, pray for us to be not afraid to follow Jesus and be one with the Father in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

From Pinterest.com.

Remembering, praying 9/11

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 11 September 2020
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-27   <*(((><<   |+|   >><)))*>   Luke 6:39-42
NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images.

Today, we remember, O Lord, 9/11 – more than the date but the people who have perished, those injured, those who risked their lives for others, and countless others whose lives were forever changed by the terror attacks of that day.

Your servant St. Pope John Paul II lamented at that time how year 2001 – the start of the new century – was marked by that unimaginable attack on human life and freedom.

Nineteen years after, we still remember those vivid moments caught on television that stunned us in disbelief. Most of all, we can still feel the pain and fear 9/11 had stirred in us even if we were thousands of miles away from ground zero.

May this occasion remind us too, Lord Jesus, of our task of great efforts that lie ahead to proclaim your gospel of salvation amidst these troubled times.

All the more that we feel the importance of proclaiming the gospel in this time of the pandemic, 19 years after 9/11 as we go through many crises and calamities of biblical proportions. How sad that until now, we have refused to examine our true selves so we can see clearly the path we are taking.

Jesus told his disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

Luke 6:39, 41

Until now, wars and attacks on life continue everywhere around the world because right inside our hearts, Lord, we have refused to forget ourselves, think more of others so that we can be like St. Paul to “become all things to all” (omnia omnibus) like a slave foregoing our own good and comforts for the sake of more people.

Teach us to discipline ourselves, Lord, for all these crises we are facing today begin inside us.

thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

To remember anyone and anything in the past, Lord, is to always change to make them better. Let it begin in me by first remembering your dying on the Cross for me. Amen.

The wildfires created a natural Instagram filter across California. Photo: MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images; 10 September 2020.

Every birthday is a small Christmas

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 08 September 2020
Romans 8:28-30   >><)))*> + <*(((><<   Matthew 1:18-23
Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Praise and glory to you our great and loving God the Father! In sending us your beloved Son Jesus Christ, you have truly blessed us all in his coming. First among us is his Blessed Mother, Virgin Mary who has become our Mother too through Jesus Christ!

You never fail to surprise us, O God our Father, with your plans not only with the Virgin Mary and the Saints but most especially with each one of us in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ.

St. Andrew of Crete beautifully explained in his discourse the meaning of this Feast of Mary’s Birth:

The present festival, the birth of the Mother of God is the prelude, while the final act is the foreordained union of the Word with flesh. Today the Virgin is born, tended and formed, and prepared for her role as Mother of God, who is the universal King of the ages.

Office of Readings, 08 September, Volume IV

How lovely that on this Feast of Mary’s nativity, the story we were told “is how the birth of Jesus came about” through her and St. Joseph her spouse with of a lot of working by the Holy Spirit.

Give us, O God, the faith and the strength to heed St. Paul’s teaching so that your plans are fulfilled in us like with Mother Mary:

We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Romans 8:28

Help us realize this great honor you have given us in sharing with the Motherhood of Mary by reflecting on St. John Paul the Second’s teaching that “Every birthday is a small Christmas because with the birth of every person comes Jesus Christ.” (Evangelium Vitae)

Like Mary, make us share Jesus Christ with everyone and in this world that has turned its back from you.

Like Mary, may we remain standing at the foot of Jesus Christ’s Cross when everything is dark and uncertain for that is when his light shines brightest leading to Easter.

And still like Mary, may we be faithful in our prayer life, always waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill us with fire and strength to proclaim the gospel not only in words but most of all in deeds like her.

O most blessed Virgin Mary our Mother, pray for us to grow closer with your Son Jesus Christ! Amen.

Photo by author, National Shrine of Mt. Carmel, QC, 2019.

Being servants and stewards of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 04 September 2020
1 Corintians 4:1-5 /// Luke 5:1-11
Photo by author, Lent in our parish 2020.

Dearest Jesus Christ:

Your words today through St. Paul are very edifying but also demanding, even scary and frightening.

But, I would rather have it that way than get them into my head.

Brothers and sisters: Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Now it is of course required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.

1 Corinthians 4:1-2

Yes, it is an honor to be chosen as your servant, Lord, and a steward of the mysteries of God.

It is so pleasant to the ears and so flattering to one’s self to be a steward of the mysteries of God, of his wisdom – of Jesus Christ crucified.

Keep me lowly and humble, Lord. Remind me always that everything is about you and never about me. Keep me faithful to you and your call that whatever others may say about me, let me be concerned solely with your words and with your judgment. At the same time, keep me silent too, never to brag of my mission and most of all, never to judge others for that resides in God alone.

Keep my mind and my heart open to you always, Lord, so I may always be like a fresh wineskin to be poured on with new wine to mature and grow spiritually in you. Amen.

Our foolish pride

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church, 03 September 2020
1 Corinthians 3:18-23 >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> | >><)))*> Luke 5:1-11
One of the best ads during the lockdown last summer from Smart.

What a wonderful lesson we have today from St. Paul about your wisdom, O God our Father that is found in the scandal of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ!

Brothers and sisters: Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you considers himself wise in this stage, let him become a fool so as to become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in the eyes of God, for it is written: God catches the wise in their own ruses, and again: The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

1 Corinthians 3:18-20

This we have realized at the start of this pandemic when everything in the world stopped and forever changed because of microscopic COVID-19 virus, affecting even the most advanced countries of the world.

Most of all, everybody – rich and poor alike – suffered greatly from this virus, teaching us to value persons more when people we took for granted for so long have become our “saviors” during this prolonged quarantine periods like vendors and delivery personnel, our househelpers, and others we used to look down upon who continued to serve us with food and other needs.

Not to be forgotten too are the members of neglected sectors of our society, specially those in the medical and healthcare system and the agriculture who showed us the importance of human and natural resources over imports and technology as well as entertainment.

What a great lesson about wisdom of God and foolishness of man in this modern time!

One thing very clear, O Lord, that to be a fool for you is first of all to let go of our foolish pride and be humble before you and others.

It is the only way we can let you do your work of changing us and the world when we learn to let go of our foolish pride like St. Peter in today’s gospel when he as an experienced fisherman heeded your command to cast his nets into the deep even though you are the carpenter’s son.

When we review the lives of all saints, they are all men and women of exceptional humility before you, Lord; like St. Gregory the Great who focused more on you that he was able to reform our liturgy, set up schools and monasteries, sent missionaries to England, and instill holiness among the clergy in his “Pastoral Instructions.”

Help us to believe more in you than in ourselves so that you may do your work in us and through us. May we value your Cross, Lord Jesus, considered as foolish in this sophisticated age yet has continued to prove that it is the only path to our transformation as persons and nations. Amen.

Photo by author, XVth Station of the Cross, the Resurrection, Mount St. Paul, La Trinidad, Benguet, February 2020.