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!

Why the cross of Jesus is a “must”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 September 2021
Photo by author, St. Ildephonsus Parish, Tanay, Rizal (January 2021).
Must you, O Lord, 
come and suffer 
so I may see 
your great love
for me?
Must you, O Lord,
be betrayed and denied thrice
so I may see
your loyalty?
Must you, O Lord,
die and rise again
so I may see
your glory?

Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

Mark 8:34
So many times
like the young man
who came to you
I find myself asking too
"Lord, what must I do
to gain eternal life?"
But always the same
scene you repeat
again and again:
that I must deny myself,
take up my cross,
and follow you
my Lord to realize
the gravity of my sins
and the immensity of your
love and mercy for me.
Let me turn to you
and remain with you, Lord
at your Triumphant Cross
that I must raise up
over the world
to illumine the paths
that lead to life and love
into the gates of heaven
found here on earth
and not above;
must I fall and stumble,
raise me up
along with others
who are also following you
with whom I must find you too
to truly exalt your Cross!
Photo by author, November 2019.

When negative is positive

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2021
Numbers 21:4-9 ><]]]]*> Philippians 2:6-11 ><]]]]*> John 3:13-17
Photo by author, statue of the bronze serpent mounted on a pole by Moses overlooking the Promised Land of Israel at the Franciscan Monastery on Mt. Nebo in Jordan (May 2019).
God our loving Father,
in this time of the COVID-19
pandemic when being "negative"
is actually "positive",
help us see the meaning
of celebrating your transformation
of repugnant symbols of suffering
and death into signs of glory
and majesty like the snake
and the cross.

Moses accordingly made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole, and whenever anyone who had been bitten by a serpent looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.

Numbers 21:9
How wonderful it is, Father
when you transformed a
dangerous snake into a
healing and saving symbol
at the desert,
prefiguring the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ
who showed us personally
that the path to exaltation
 is through lowliness
or self-emptying.

Brothers and sisters: Christ Jesus, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.

Philippians 2:6-9
Most amazing of all, dear Father
is how you have transformed in Jesus
the most cruel instrument of suffering
and death which is the cross
into a symbol of salvation.
What a beautiful transformation
you have brought in Christ's Passion,
Death, and Resurrection
when the most negative sign
has become the clearest positive sign of all!

Jesus told Nicodemus: “And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

John 3:14-17
Help us find and celebrate, 
O God, in this Feast 
of the Exaltation of the Cross 
Christ's resurrection and glory
in heaven, instead of mourning
his death for he is Life himself; 
help us focus on healing and salvation
instead of dwelling on pain and
suffering especially in this time
of the pandemic; may his Cross
be our light in guiding us through
the darkness of COVID-19,
transforming us within to see
ourselves and one another clearly
as your beloved children, dear Father,
realizing the depths of your love 
and mercy while looking up to Jesus 
on the Cross.  Amen.
Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020, Bagbaguin, Santa Maria, Bulacan.

Paano pumunta sa langit?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-13 ng Setyembre 2021
Larawan kuha ng may-akda, La Niña Maria sa Pambansang Dambana ng Fatima, Valenzuela, 07 Setyembre 2021.
Bisperas ng kaarawan
ng Mahal na Birheng Maria
matapos manalangin
bumati si Andrei ng
"Happy birthday, Mama Mary!"
sabay sabi sa kanyang mommy:
"Bibili ko sana siya ng cake
pero paano ako mapupunta
sa langit?"
Tunay ang sinabi
ng Panginoon noong dati:
mula sa mga labi ng bata
nahahabi karunungang
walang pagkukunwari;
pawang katotohanan 
kay dali nilang bitiwan
nakakatuwa dahil puno ng karunungan
tila bugtong na palaisipan.
Madali namang malaman
kasagutan sa kanilang mga tanong
ngunit bakit nga ba ganoon
sa pagkakaroon ng gulang ng taon,
kamusmusan nati'y
nawawala, napapalitan
ng pagmamaang-maangan
kunwa'y hindi alam
pangunahing kaalaman sa buhay.
Katulad ng paano nga ba
pumunta sa langit?
Hindi natin masambit
gayong palagi nating
nilulungating masapit
dahil mayroong pagsusulit
at baka tayo sumabit
kaya hangga't maari
sa kasalukuyang buhay kumakapit.
Paano nga ba pumunta
sa langit?
Hindi ka naman mamatay
daglit
Ngunit ang turo ni Hesus
palagi niyang sambit,
limutin ang sarili, pasanin ating krus 
kada araw at sa Kanya'y sumunod -
 papuntang langit!
Larawan mula sa Google.

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/

Transfiguration in time of corona

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

Surprising Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary time, Cycle B, 04 July 2021
Ezekiel 2:2-5 ><}}}'> 2Corinthians 12:7-10 ><}}}'> Mark6:1-6
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Center for Spirituality, Novaliches, 2015.

There are only two instances in the gospels that say Jesus was surprised or amazed: first is in his hometown of Nazareth as we have heard today when “He was amazed at their lack of faith” (Mk.6:6) and the second is in Capernaum when a Roman centurion asked him to heal his sick servant. When Jesus obliged to come with him to heal the servant, the Roman officer declared, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant shall be healed. When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith” (Mt.8:8, 10).

What surprises Jesus most is our faith in him. Or, its lack like the people of Nazareth.

Last Sunday, he dared us to examine our faith in him when he brought back to life the dead daughter of Jairus. On their way, Jairus was told his daughter had died, that there was no need to bother Jesus anymore; that’s when Jesus said, “Do not be afraid; just have faith” (Mk.5:36). Reaching his home, there was commotion on the dead child but later, everybody was “utterly astounded”(Mk.5:42) after Jesus brought her back to life.

Today, St. Mark deepens our reflection on the need to have faith in Jesus by telling us a surprisingly sad episode in the Lord’s life and ministry of being rejected right in his native Nazareth:

When the sabbath came he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What kind of wisdom has been given him? What mighty deeds are wrought by his hands! Is he not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. so he was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Mark 6:2-3, 5-6
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

The need for faith

For the past three weeks, St. Mark has slowly introduced to us that Jesus is the Christ, the awaited Messiah or Savior through his teachings and miracles like healing the sick, pacifying a violent storm at sea in the darkness of the night, and bringing back to life the dead child of Jairus.

However, it is not enough to “know” who Jesus is.

Knowing Jesus – or anyone – will not matter at all unless we believe in him and enter into a relationship with him lest we end up like his folks who “knew” him as the carpenter and son of Mary, wondering where he got all his wisdom and power.

And worst, “they took offense at him”. As we would say in Filipino, “pinersonal nila si Jesus.”

But, that is what faith is – something very personal because it is a relationship. No relationship can mature and grow unless there is faith. The deeper and stronger the faith, the most wonderful is the relationship because despite all the troubles and sufferings that may come, the ties remain because of faith.

That is why it St. Mark is telling us today the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, of how even the Son of God experienced failures and rejections, calling us for a deeper and firmer faith in him who alone is our Lord and Savior. Aside from sickness and deaths in our lives, there are many other pains and heartaches, disappointments and failures and losses in our lives that if we do not have faith, we can never make it through with Jesus.

Yes, Jesus is with us in this journey of life in the many seas to cross while in darkness amid violent storms; but, we have to believe in him first before he can make his moves in our favor like in Nazareth where he “was not able to perform any mighty deed there, apart from curing a few sick people by laying his hands on them” due to their lack of faith in him.

Photo by author, altar in my room at the Fatima National Shrine, Valenzuela City, February 2021.

Surprising Jesus with our faith

Too often in our lives, we have boxed God as being stiff and stern, a disciplinarian watching us for our sins and mistakes. Wrong! God sent us his Son Jesus Christ so we may experience his tender mercy and love, his personal relationship with each of us.

Unlike most of us, Jesus is a touch person, so sensitively human, not numb, always feeling us in our gestures and looks and words like that Roman centurion at Capernaum, that sick woman in the crowd last Sunday, the widow of Nain and the sisters Mary and Martha. They all moved and touched Jesus with their grief and sufferings, and most especially with their faith and joy and confidence in him.

Most beautiful in these stories of Jesus being surprised and moved by humans are the more surprising kindness and blessings he bestowed on them – like in our own experiences! Notice that when we were so surprised by God with his blessings, that is when we have also surprised him with our faith.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we continue to listen and speak his words of justice and truth. In this age of faith in a mass mediated-culture, we find the voice of God drowned in the cacophony of many sounds competing for everyone’s attention where the ones that prevail are those appealing to the senses that are both easy and pleasurable. Through media manipulations, what was unacceptable was first made to be tolerable until it has become acceptable like promiscuity and “safe-sex”, divorce and same sex marriage, birth controls and abortions. Any discussion of God and religion, ethics and morality and values are dismissed as limiting and narrow-mindedness or worst, as being old-fashioned and conservative. In modern man’s effort to be “fair” and “all-encompassing”, the human person has been reduced to technicalities and legalese, replacing life with lifestyles.

Hard of face and obstinate of heart are they to whom I am sending you. But you shall say to them: Thus says the Lord God! And whether they heed or resist – for they are a rebellious house – shall know that a prophet has been among them.

Ezekiel 2:4-5

Jesus shows us today in his unhappy homecoming to Nazareth that even if people refuse to listen, we continue with our prophetic role of proclaiming his good news of salvation “in season, out of season”.

Even if nobody listens, even if we do not win converts or followers, we are prophets of God like Ezekiel, the voice of God, of his justice and truth amid a rebellious and wayward generation. Like John the Baptist, we are the voice in the wilderness preparing the coming of the Lord by speaking the truth, calling people to repentance and conversion.

Though God speaks in silence, our being silent in the midst of evil worsens the sinful situation as we shut doors among humanity leaving no room at all for Jesus to come and work his wonders among us. Be the voice of Jesus, be his opening, and be ready for great surprises happening soon!


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we remain standing with him at his Cross, bearing all pains and wounds with him. In this age of affluence and convenience characterized with everything instant in a click of a button, modern life has become sedentary to our own detriment. As we prefer to be seated more than standing, we have become so passive, avoiding every form of pain and suffering that make pain relievers as the most prescribed and widely used medication these days.

See how we quarrel over our places of “seat” everywhere – at home and school, office and community and parish, public and private transport – as they connote powers without realizing that what matters most in life is where we stand because that is when we are defined as a person for our faith and values in life, when we most surprise Jesus as he surprises us most with his strength like what St. Paul had realized:

Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Great things begin to happen in us, in our lives when we are out standing for Jesus, with Jesus because that is when we are truly one in him as he passed over our miseries and sins to rise again with him and in him in his Resurrection.


Jesus is surprised with our faith when we are filled with joy and love in him despite everything. To love and be joyful like Jesus calls for a deep faith in him, to be kind and merciful even when others are rude and unforgiving. Notice how these days it takes a lot of guts to be good. And we are so amazed with them!

On the other hand, notice when we hear news of a band of people who are inconsiderate, corrupt, unkind, selfish, and proud: are you not surprised they are filled with anger and hate and negativities?

During the persecution of the early Church, Christians were easily spotted and rounded because they were amazingly loving and caring with the marginalized like the poor, the sick, the widows, the old, and the orphans. Pagans were most surprised that the more they persecuted the Christians, the more they grew in number! It is one of history’s most surprising facts but, that is how God moves, so unusual in the most surprising ways.


Have you been surprised by Jesus lately?

Try surprising him with your great faith in him and you will be surprised greatly by him!

Have a blessed Sunday! Amen.

Photo by author, flowers at the Pater Noster Church outside Jerusalem in Israel, 2019.

Praying to be true in prayers

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XI in Ordinary Time, Year I, 14 June 2021
2 Corinthians 6:1-10   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:38-42
Photo by author, May 2016.

Thank you very much, O God, for the daily gift of prayers, of being able to pray to you which is a pure grace from you. On our own we cannot pray because we do not have the courage and wisdom to speak to you, to listen to you. Most of all, we are afraid to enter into union with you especially with the example set to us by Jesus Christ your Son.

Give us the grace to be slowly true in our prayers, Lord, like letting go of revenge and vengeance.

Jesus said to his disciples:
"You have heard that it was said,
An eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth.
But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.  
When someone strikes you on your right cheek,
turn the other one to him as well."
(Matthew 5:38-39)

What is most difficult in praying is imitating you, sweet Jesus, in devoting our lives to you and your gospel by forgetting ourselves, carrying our crosses and following you closely.

So many times, we receive the grace of God in vain, wasting these gifts because we are so afraid of giving ourselves totally to others like you Lord Jesus on the cross.

Teach us how to be a sign of contradiction, a paradox in ourselves like St. Paul who truly imitated you by first of all trying to reconcile with the Corinthians who have turned against him when he failed to keep his promise of visiting them. Like you Lord Jesus, St. Paul bore all the personal attacks against him by the Corinthians, choosing to be conciliatory and gentle in his attitude in addressing them.

We are treated as deceivers and yet are truthful;
as unrecognized and yet acknowledged;
so dying and behold we live;
as chastised and yet not put to death;
so sorrowful yet always rejoicing;
as poor yet enriching many; 
as having nothing and yet possessing all things.
(2 Corinthians 6:8-10)

In the midst of pain and suffering, rejection and persecution, St. Paul found joy and peace in you, dear Jesus. He was so convinced of your love and presence even in the midst of his darkest moments in life. So unlike us who easily give up your cross, Lord, when we are criticized because the sad truth is we always seek recognition and praise for our works in you.

Help us to be like St. Paul in his unshakeable faith in you, so true in his prayers of becoming like you, a sign of contradiction to the world, a person of Christ-like paradoxes. Amen.

Photo by author, May 2016.

Holiness is faithfulness

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Holy Tuesday, 30 March 2021 
Isaiah 49:1-6   ><}}}*>   John 13:21-33, 36-38
Photo by author, December 2020
Though I thought I had toiled in vain,
and for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength,
yet my reward is with the Lord, 
my recompense is with my God.
(Isaiah 49:4)

So many times, dear Father in heaven, I feel like your “Suffering Servant” feeling that nothing is happening with all my efforts, with things I persevere, as if they are all useless until I realize what matters most is my being faithful to you.

Thank you for the sign of the Cross of Jesus Christ your Son, our Lord and Master: when things become so difficult and frustrating for me, I just look at him there on the cross, “dead” like me who had failed in your mission.

But as I contemplate his Cross, I remember how before all my sadness and sufferings, Jesus was there first for me to be good with others, to be kind, to be understanding, to be merciful and forgiving, to be patient, and most of all, first to be holy in being faithful to you and your call, Father.

Remind me the words of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta that we are called to be faithful, not successful.

Let me focus more on you, Lord, instead of wondering how I have been doing, how good I have been.

Let me stop competing with others, asking who is not faithful to you, who is going to betray you like Peter during the last supper when he told the beloved disciple to clarify it with Jesus:

He leaned back against Jesus' chest
and said to him, 
"Master, who is it?"
(John 13:25)

How lovely is the context of that question when what we must contemplate with is whether we have been faithful to Jesus in his Holy Eucharist.

How sad, O dear Father, that we are most unfaithful to you when we betray you right in the Eucharist – when do not listen to your words and message to us, when we do not live and practice the essence of thanksgiving to you by being faithful in witnessing Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross in our daily lives. Amen.