Pakanin nagugutom, huwag pakialaman nagluluto

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-14 ng Hulyo, 2021
Larawan mula sa inquirer.net, 11 Hulyo 2021.
Isang katatawanan na hindi malilimutan
sa taong 2021 nang pagdiskitahan ng ilan
pagkain ng bayan
patunay na marami sa pamunuan
hindi ramdam pintig ng mamayan
lalo na ang kalam ng tiyan.
Unang katatawanan 
bunsod ng kayabangan nang 
paratangan na ang lugaw 
ay non-essential
pagkaing hindi mahalaga
kaya buong bayan nag-alma.
Heto na naman
mga henyo sa kalakalan
ibig nama'y magtakda ng batayan
sa pagluluto ng mga paboritong ulam ng bayan;
ngunit anumang paliwanag
kanilang sabihin
walang kabuluhang pakinggan
mga pinag-iisip nila'y walang katuturan
patunay lamang na manhid at mga payaso
 mga tao ngayon sa gobyernong ito.
Maari bang itakda ninuman
mga sangkap na ibig malasap,
sarap at linamnam na ibig namnamin
ng bawat kumakain?
Alalahaning hindi lamang laman ng tiyan
ang pagkain kung ating susuriin
inihahain pa nga lang, lasap na natin
diwa at katauhan nagigising
ng maraming alaala at kuwento
ng pagkaing bumusog sa atin.
Suriin bawat kalinangan
nasasalamin sa lutuin at pagkain
dahil doon sa mesa nagsisimula
 lahat ng ating kapatiran at kaisahan:
walang kumakain kasama ang kaaway,
ano mang kasunduan ay may handaang kasabay,
higit sa lahat, sa pagdulog sa hapag
doon nagaganap tunay na pagdadaop-palad
dahil sa tuwing tayo ay mayroong piging,
sarili ang ibinabahagi natin sa anyo ng pagkain at inumin.
Maging ang Panginoong Hesus natin
pinili ay pagkain at piging
upang gamitin tanda ng kapanatilihan
niya sa atin:  kanyang itinatag 
hapag ng Eukaristiya
doon sa mesa ng Banal na Misa.
Tangi niyang tagubilin
tinapay na walang lebadura gagamitin
sa bawat pagdiriwang ng piging
kung saan pinapaging-ganap natin
pagmamahal niya sa atin
nang ihandog sarili bilang ating pagkain.
Kaya, huwag nang pag-isipan
ng mga nagmamagaling
paano lutuin mga paboritong pagkain
bagkus kanilang isipin
paano mapapakain
mga nagugutom na kapatid natin.

Images of COVID-19, Images of Hope

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 07 April 2021
Photo by author, early morning inside our former parish at lock down last March 2020.

Come April 14 next week, I will complete my 365-day streak on my blog https://lordmychef.wordpress.com/.

It was a Tuesday within the Octave of Easter under our first – and world’s longest – Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) when I started this prayer blog based on the Mass readings as a “spiritual recipe” for tired and weary souls at that time when churches were closed and public Masses were not allowed.

It was pure grace that I was able to keep it daily until now in my new assignment, never running out of inspiration from God for my prayers, poems, essays and reflections, and the usual Sunday homilies I have been sharing via email since 2003.

Some of my inspirations came from unforgettable images of COVID-19 that went viral on Facebook and the news that for me were “images of hope” of the Risen Christ reminding us of his presence during this pandemic.

They are images of hope because they tell us modern Easter stories of holiness and kindness, love and sacrifice among ordinary people willing to share Jesus in their very selves for others in need.

And this photo tops them all!

From Facebook, 25 March 2020.

I got this from the Facebook by a church-beat reporter who personally met the photographer who took that shot and interviewed the banana vendor.

What a beautiful reminder of the poor widow praised by Jesus who gave “two small coins worth a few cents” into the temple collection box, saying: “Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood” (Mk.12:43-44).

My initial reaction upon seeing this image of COVID-19 was how the world never runs out of many good people, who give without expecting anything in return: “may mga tao pa rin palang tunay at dalisay ang pagmamahal at hindi naghihintay ng kapalit.”

I wonder where is that vendor now and what has happened to him. Surely, God must have blessed him abundantly!


A week before the lockdown that March 2020, another set of images appeared on Facebook of a beautiful story of miracle in the supermarket.

According to the Facebook post that became viral, people were panic buying following rumors of a lockdown to be imposed due to the pandemic.

A young lady waiting at the long line to the counter noticed a man had only a basket containing a handful of grocery items.

She turned out to be a “fairy godmother” who offered the manong to get more goods for his family assuring him she would pay for them.

Manong was hesitant at first, very shy with the kind offer by the young lady until he acceded, getting a few more canned goods.

According to the post by an eye-witness, the “fairy” asked manong again to get more goods, saying “dagdagan pa po ninyo at babayaran ko.”

That was when miracle happened…

Some of those at the counter were infected with a holy virus by the young lady’s generosity.

One by one, each customer gave manong a can or an item of their purchases so that he had a basket full of goodies to take home for his family!

Indeed, love begets love begets love… it is the kind of good virus I am sure still happening today even without being reported in social media.

What a beautiful modern version of Jesus Christ’s feeding of 5000 in the wilderness when everybody shared their baon with others (Jn.6:1-15) that filled everyone to his/her delight with still plenty of leftovers.


I turned 55 on March 22, the first Sunday of the start of last year’s lockdown, the fifth Sunday of Lent. It was also the first time we went online with our Mass that morning when I called on the people to wait outside their homes later at 3PM – while maintaining health protocols – for the “paglibot” (motorized procession) of the Blessed Sacrament in our Parish at Barangay Bagbaguin made up of ten purok.

How my heart was moved at the sight of people, young and old, rich and poor alike, kneeling on the streets with some crying, adoring Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament!

Truly the images of hope that have sustained and blessed our parishioners at Bagbaguin with the lowest incidence of COVID infections and deaths that year in the whole town of Santa Maria, Bulacan!

Photo by Mr. Ryan Cajanding.

But the most beautiful image of hope for me that day was the appearance of a rainbow before the end of our “libot” of the Blessed Sacrament.

We were at the last leg of our “libot” when it started to rain with our volunteers asking whether we would still go to the next purok of Gulod or not. From the back of our truck with both my hands holding the big monstrance, my response was adamant: we proceed even if it rains!

I knew we have brought plastic to cover and protect the Blessed Sacrament from the rains and I felt what mattered most then were the people to have a glimpse of Jesus in their most difficult trials in life.

Lo and behold, after a few minutes, the rains stopped and a rainbow appeared at the horizon!

Tears rolled down to my cheeks saturated with perspirations as I held the big monstrance.

I could not contain the joy within my heart as I thanked God for the grace of that moment, of sending us with a rainbow to assure us like during Noah’s time that he would keep his promise never again to destroy earth with floods or with virus, that we would be safe during this pandemic.

It was the best birthday gift I ever had in recent years that made me decide to continue that practice of libot of the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday while public Masses were not allowed during the lockdown.

What are your images of COVID-19 that were images of hope that sustained you in this year-old pandemic?

Join us again this Friday with more images of COVID-19 and this time, images of Christ among us!

*Other photos by Ms. Ria De Vera and Ms. Anne Ramos of our Parish Commission on Social Communications.

Our song, our life

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-7 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Advent Week IV, 22 December 2020
1 Samuel 1:24-28     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 1:46-56
Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, 20 December 2020.

When I was about to enter the high school seminary, an aunt would always comment on our way to school how I would become a priest when I am a big fan of rock and roll music. You know, the usual stuff ever since with old folks about rock music as evil and everything…

Looking back, I just imagine what if I had told her and my other relatives the meaning of Steely Dan that is my most favorite band? Most likely they would have fainted! And I would tell tell them too that I am the only priest who had played Stairway to Heaven in Radio Veritas where I used to co-anchor a show, playing only good, old rock n’ roll to the delight of many listeners despite protests from management.

Lately I have been blogging every week linking secular music with the Sunday gospel that had enabled me to reach new and younger generations I hope had rediscovered Jesus in the music I had offered them.

The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had said that “music is the food of the soul” and it is very true for it transcends cultures and languages that even if you do not understand the lyrics, music always touches the soul.

Meanwhile, the great English playwright William Shakespeare is said to tell his audience at the start of his plays that “If music be the food of love, play on.” That’s very beatiful. Like love, music is best served with another person; when we sing, it is always to pour our hearts out. We let others hear our song even if we sing alone because that is what music is all about – it is meant to be shared.

This is the reason why Mary sang her Magnificat during her Visitation of Elizabeth, not by herself in Nazareth after the angel had left after announcing to her the birth of Jesus.

Mary said: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. For he has looked upon his lowly servant. From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

Luke 1:46-49
Photo from Pinterest, Our Lady of Fatima Centennial in Portugal, 17 May 2017.

Mary praised and thanked God with her “Magnificat”

Recall how Elizabeth praised Mary twice and her baby Jesus in the womb once yesterday at the Visitation. Naturally for us, when we are praised we always return it by praising too whoever spoke nicely of us.

But that was not the case with Mary. She took the occasion to praise and thank God for all His goodness and salvific work in her and in Elizabeth. Like Hanna in the first reading and responsorial psalm today who sang praises to God in giving her a son in the prophet Samuel, Mary while filled with the Holy Spirit sang this canticle, narrating how God worked in her and through her.

Our lives is a song of thanksgiving always to God who never stops doing great things for us not to make us famous but to bring His divine will into fulfillment. Mary affirmed this when she admitted her own blessedness, “From this day all generations will call me blessed: the Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is his Name.”

Yesterday we have reflected that true blessedness is to trust in God. Likewise, Mary added another dimension in what is to be blessed before God and that is being His servant, His slave or in her very words to the angel at the annunciation, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

A handmaid is the feminine form of “slave” but more than being poetic in her identification as a female slave of God, Mary through her Magnificat showed us a glimpse of the lives of the early Christians at that time who were considered “weird” and “odd”, even “bizarre” among the Roman pagans who could not understand why they worshipped Jesus Christ they saw as “a crucified criminal”.

Worst of all for the pagans, they could not understand why the early Christians who were mostly poor would give themselves to Jesus in loving service to others like the sick, the elderly, the hungry, widows and orphans and those living in the margins.

In fact, the Roman historian Pliny recorded in his writings how during the persecution the emperor’s soldiers rounded up Christians in every town and city by looking for anybody doing good, serving the poor and needy! It is something to think about for us Christians today: Would any one of us be arrested because we are doing something good like serving the less fortunate?

Photo by author, Our Lady of the Poor at Boys Town in Cavite (2009).

Mary, the first model disciple, the first to live out the Gospel

In singing her blessedness by God, Mary had assumed her being the spokeswoman of the early Christians, the poor ones or anawim of Israel who were truly poor materially, trusting entirely on God.

Here lies her challenge to us who love to sing her Magnificat: do we allow God to work in us His salvation?

“He has mercy on those who fear him. He has shown the strength of his arm, and has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the mighty from their thrones and has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for he remembered his promise of mercy…”

Luke 1:50-54

Again, we find many similarities in the Mary’s Magnificat and Hanna’s song we heard in the responsorial psalm. But, more than that is the striking similarity of Magnificat with the Beatitudes to be preached by Jesus according to Luke.

In Matthew’s gospel, there are eight Beatitudes preached by Jesus at his sermon on the mount; Luke narrated it differently by citing only four Beatitudes he paired with four woes that Jesus preached in His sermon on the plain (this is due to the different audience Luke and Matthew addressed):

Blessed are you who are poor… Blessed are you who are now hungry… Blessed are you who are now weeping… Blessed are you when people hate you…

Woe to you who are rich… Woe to you who are filled… Woe to you who laugh now… Woe to you when all speak well of you…

Luke 6:20-26

Magnificat is the Gospel in a nutshell. See the works of God cited by Mary perfectly jibing with the Beatitudes of Jesus. Here we find again how Luke has shown us the consistency of Mary as a disciple of her Son Jesus Christ by witnessing to His teachings, living them out for which she was crowned as Queen of heaven and earth.

This is the reason why I love so much the image of Fatima and of Banneux known as Lady of the Poor with Mary portrayed as so simple yet so lovely and beautiful. What a scandal for the Church in our time with all those lavish processions and coronations of the Blessed Virgin Mary where the poor are left out, becoming more of a social function among the rich and famous. What a shame most especially amid the pandemic when some parishes can spend so much fortune in these rituals that look more as a show which the Blessed Virgin would definitely disapprove. Keep in mind how Mary identified herself as “handmaid of the Lord” — do away all those pomp and pageantries please!

Every night, we priests and the religious sing the Magnificat in our Evening prayers to examine ourselves if we have lived out the Gospel message of the Lord, if we have been poor and hungry, if we have allowed ourselves to be used by God to effect His salvation among the suffering.

The same is true with every disciple of Jesus: when we sing the Magnificat or “Ang Puso ko’y nagpupuri”, we have to do some soul searching how consistent we have been as a disciple of the Lord like His Mother Mary.

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 24 July 2016.

How sad late yesterday when some people -whether they are trolls or not – had come out expressing support to that cop who brutally shot and killed Sonya Gregorio and her son Anton in their home in Paniqui, Tarlac Sunday afternoon.

How can some people be not affected and even defend or belittle such unspeakable crime of a man supposed to uphold the law, protect civilians?

What had gone wrong with us as the only Christian nation in this part of the world?

Can we sing “Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri sa Panginoon, nagagalak ang aking espiritu, sa aking Tagapagligtas” while we rejoice and defend all forms of brutalities and violence around us?

As we strongly condemn this unspeakable crime and demand justice for Sonya and Anton, let us work hard and pray hardest to imitate Mary to effect change in the society we live in and create by being a voice of the poor and vessel of God’s salvation. Amen.

Mary in the hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 10 September 2020
Chapel of the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem where the Holy Family hid before fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s murder of innocent babies. According to tradition, a drop of milk from the Virgin Mary fell on the floor of the cave that turned color of the stones to white.

We have just celebrated the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the most perfect example of one who had experienced God’s hiddenness in her life, teaching us with some important lessons in rediscovering and keeping God’s hiddenness specially in this age of social media when everything is shown and has to be seen.

We have mentioned in our previous blog that hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”; hiddenness is more than not being seen per se but that feeling with certainty that God is present though hiding because he wants to surprise us. If God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all. And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him too as seen in the life of Mary (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/04/the-hiddenness-of-god/).

The hiddenness of Mary.

Simplicity and humility of Mary as venue for the perfect setting of God’s coming in Jesus Christ. Consider her origins: her town of Nazareth in the province of Galilee was definitely outside the more popular city of Jerusalem that was the place to be at that time. Most of all, it is the only town in the New Testament never mentioned in the Old Testament nor by the prophets for lack of any significance in the coming of the Messiah.

Nazareth was largely unknown with some hint of notoriety as expressed by Nathanael (aka, Apostle Bartholomew) when he expressed disbelief to Philip who told him they have found the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, by saying “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

Photo by author of chapel at the grotto believed where Mary received the good news of bearing Jesus Christ in her womb underneath the Basilica of the Annunciation at Nazareth, Israel (2019).

But that is how God works in his hiddenness, coming to us in the most ordinary places and circumstances, even least expected like Mary who was definitely not “in” if we go by today’s popular standard of “who’s in and who’s out?”

In fact, she was so “outside” the circle of influence of their time with her being promdi as we say these days, without any illustrious lineage to be proud of like her spouse Joseph who was from the royal Davidic line or her cousin Elizabeth from the priestly branch of Aaron, the brother of Moses whose husband, Zechariah belonged to another priestly clan in Israel.

Yet, God chose Mary to be the Mother of Jesus Christ because of her hiddenness expressed in her simplicity and humility. It is a far cry from our extreme “Marianism” when we almost worship Mary forgetting Jesus Christ her Son and our Savior! Worst still is the growing trend of “triumphalism” in many parishes racing for the so-called “episcopal” and “canonical” coronation of their various images of the Virgin Mary that come in all kinds of names and titles that has come to look more of a fad than authentic Marian devotion.

Without any intentions of denigrating the role and stature of the Blessed Virgin Mary in our faith as well as her proper place in the life of the Church defined by Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, I dare ask the following questions:

Photo by author, a replica of Our Lady of the Poor of Banneux, Belgium at Girlstown, Cavite (2009).

Is her coronation in heaven as Queen of heaven and earth not enough?

Why the need for these lavish spectacles for the coronation of the most simplest and humblest woman to have lived on earth?

It is a clear case of triumphalism – that exaggeration or overdoing our worship and rituals – especially if the Marian image is less than 200 years old without widespread devotions like the ones at Sto. Domingo (Quezon City) and Manaoag (Pangasinan).

I do not think the Blessed Mother would favor this considering her simplicity and solidarity with the poor and marginalized peoples seen in her many apparitions.

See the quaint and charming simplicity of Mary at Fatima in Portugal (1917) and lately at Banneux in Liege, Belgium (1933) where she identified herself as “Lady of the Poor”.

Note how the Virgin Mary reads “the signs of the times” in her apparitions and appearances when during the 1500’s at the height of European royalties and expeditions, she was always portrayed as victorious in regal clothes; but since Fatima in the 20th century as the world sank into the excesses of Industrial Revolution and affluence, Mary appeared simple, always in solidarity with the poor and suffering.

It is a cue we are sorely missing and sad to say, instead of renewing the world as St. Paul had asked us, we have allowed ourselves with the Mother of God to be transformed into the ways of the world by immersing in its showbiz frenzies, focusing on the material aspects like expensive clothes and jewelries.

Second example of Mary’s hiddenness is her oneness with Jesus Christ. She was never on her own, always seen in Jesus, with Jesus her Son and Lord. She believed in him so much, making him the focus at the wedding feast at Cana as well as at the foot of the Cross where she expressed in the most strongest terms her solidarity with the Savior of the world.

This has always been insisted by the Church since Vatican II regarding our devotions to Mary that must always be in relation with Jesus and his mission — never on her own.

Photo by author, 2019.

In all her apparitions, the Blessed Mother has always been consistent with her messages of conversion and return to God through her Son Jesus Christ, the frequent reception of the Sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession or Reconciliation.

Mary’s Christocentricity is best seen in her oneness with him in pains and sufferings like in the Pieta and the Mater Dolorosa where Jesus is the one standing out, not her. Nor anybody else.

When Mary, or anybody else for that matter goes on one’s own, Jesus is no longer hidden but removed from the scene. Then his Cross disappears and all that is seen is Mary in all her “beauty and glory” that are empty, very secular because these attributes come precisely from her communion in Jesus!

Perhaps, this pandemic is teaching us today to review our Marian devotions and processions that have become more of a show and a spectacle for Instagram than for deepening of our faith.

I pray that the Cofradia that holds the annual December 8 processions at Intramuros would take a rest this year until 2022 to discern their noble efforts before that have degenerated to pomp and pageantry among “devotees” specially camareros and camareras trying to outshine and outclass each other with some participation at the sidelights of their pastors and sacristans.

Keeping the hiddenness of God while we remain hidden in contemplation.

Of all the qualities of Mary we all must imitate to help people rediscover God’s hiddenness is her being hidden in prayer and contemplation.

St. John Paul II noted in Rosarium Virginis Mariae when he launched the Luminous Mysteries in 2002 that although the scriptures are silent about where was Mary during the other significant moments of the life of Jesus, especially at the institution of the Holy Eucharist, it was most likely that Mary was also present deep in prayer.

This we find clearly at the Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles and the Blessed Virgin Mary while they were praying at the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 1:13-14).

Modern rendition of the Pentecost with Mary among the other disciples of Jesus. From Google.

Pope emeritus Benedict XVI shares with us his profound insight in his second Jesus of Nazareth book series (Birth of Jesus) how after the annunciation of the the birth of Christ to Mary, the angel left her totally without ever coming back to warn or instruct her unlike with Joseph. After saying “Yes” to the plan of God to be the Mother of Jesus, Mary immersed herself deep in prayers and contemplation, becoming hidden herself in God.

Since then, she never doubted Jesus her Son as the Christ, nurturing her faith with prayers beautifully expressed by St. Luke in saying how “Mary treasured things in her heart” when facing difficult situations like during his birth and his finding at the temple. It is not surprising that in the contemplation by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Risen Lord must have first appeared to his Mother upon rising from the dead because she was the first to believe totally in him (which became the basis of our tradition of the Salubong).

Mary has always been present in the hiddenness of Christ from his coming in the darkness of the night on a manger in Bethlehem, to his hidden years in Nazareth, to his ministry when he would always retreat to a deserted place to pray, to his Crucifixion and death and burial on Good Friday and finally, in the darkness of Easter.

In this age of social media where everyone and everything has to be seen and shown with nothing hidden anymore even without qualms and shame at all, part of our mission and ministry as priests and religious is to lead people back to God’s hiddenness like the Virgin Mary so they may realize anew that the best things in this life are not always seen.

To fulfill this is for us first of all to imitate God like Mary — be hidden!

How unfortunate that instead of leading the people back to God’s hiddenness, we priests and religious have in fact joined the secular world, imitating the “influencers” like bloggers and vloggers that instead of focusing on God who is hidden, we are concerned with our selves and all the “porma” for the sake of number of “likes” and “followers” we have in our posts.

The more we try so hard to make God visible in our ministry by imitating the styles and gimicks of some media personalities that make our liturgy look like a variety show complete with song and dance numbers with our altars heavily decorated like a studio set with giant tarpaulins like in EDSA, that is when we remove God totally – not only his hiddenness – from the scene and inverse proportionately, the more we priests and pastors become more popular than the Lord himself.

“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from wikidata.org.

And that is how cults begin, with or without Jesus. It is very sad, even tragic and ironic because we have removed God himself – even Mary! – by unconsciously making ourselves the center of attention like pop icons and idols.

Mary had shown us the most perfect example of discipleship which is more of Jesus, less of self.

Can we not post without using our own pictures – no matter how profound our thoughts are – so the people may see the hiddenness of God in a photo of a lovely flower or a magnificent sunset? Unless you are a bishop or the Pope himself, having your photo published specially in the news is part of the information process about the person in focus. It is totally different in Church communications which is all about God and his message of love, not us.

The quarantine period invites us in the Church to appreciate and share this wonderful hiddenness of God by first becoming incognito, unknown and hidden from others, preferring to be at the background or “behind the camera” as we follow God in his hiddenness until we go to that great beyond of totally hidden from everybody except God.

Do not worry. We have Mary in every step along the way. Amen.

The hiddenness of God

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 04 September 2020
Photo by author, sunset at the Lake of Galilee (Tiberias) in Israel, May 2017.

August has always been a “ghost month” for me since elementary school. Long before I have heard these stories and words of caution against many things in the month of August, I have always dreaded this month when days are grindingly slow.

Specially this year 2020 when the whole month of August felt like the season of Lent when everything was dry and empty, even literally speaking in our churches when the five Sundays of August were like five Good Fridays.

But, for the first time in many years during this pandemic, amid the dryness and emptiness of August 2020, I felt and “found” God anew in his most unique and wonderful characteristic — his hiddenness.

Hiddenness is different from being invisible that simply means “not visible”.

Hiddenness is something both simple and complicated but beautiful and wonderful when we find God in his hiddenness.

Hiddenness of God means more than not being seen per se; it is that feeling with certainty that he is present but, just hiding somewhere. In fact, if God were not hidden, we would have not found him at all!

And the more God is hidden, the more we are able to see him and experience him!

Photo by author, April 2020.

Remember when we were kids and could not find the things that our mother had asked us to get from somewhere in the sala or kitchen or her tocador? She would threaten us with the classic line my generation have all heard and memorized, “Pag hindi mo nakita yan, makikita mo sa akin!”

It is one of our funniest memories of childhood! I am sorry for my English-speaking readers but there is no appropriate translation for this because it is very cultural and even spiritual in nature. Literally translated, it says that if you do not find what you are looking for, you would find it with me. Crazy and insane, is it not?!

I told you, hiddenness of God is both simple and complex but whenever we remember those “sweet, maternal threats”, we laugh and shrug off the experience as we were dead serious then searching for whatever thing mom had asked us because deep in us we knew too well, it must be somewhere there. Sabi kasi ni Inay! (Mom said so!)

That is how it is with God too! We know for sure he is around, he is present. But in hiding because that is how loving God is, like moms and some lovers with surprises for us his beloved.

The Prophet Jeremiah experienced it so well when he wrote:

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

Jeremiah 20:7-9

No one can understand this without having experienced such intense kind of love of God or of another person that even if we are pained, we just cannot walk away or leave. More so with God, the most intense lover of all!

At the very center of Jeremiah’s torment is the invincible power of attraction of God. This is also the reason human love – whether for another a friend or a spouse, for the Church or any institution – must always be based on the love of Christ who told us to “love one another as I have loved you.” If our love remains in the human level, it can never go deeper or higher making it so sublime, so true, so pure.

That is how God is in his hiddenness who is like a lover who never stops looking for us, calling us, luring us, even seducing us to come to him, search him and once found, we may dwell in his great love; hence, even if we do not “see” him, we keep on following him as we also find him in his hiddenness!

Hiddenness of God, mystery and gift of Easter

This hiddenness of God is both the gift and mystery of Jesus Christ’s Resurrection. It is a gift because in his hiddenness, God has become closest to us more than ever while at the same time, a mystery because it is in his very hiddenness that we truly find and discover God.

Remember the two disciples going home to Emmaus on Easter afternoon who was accompanied by Jesus while traveling? They did not recognize him but as they talked, their “hearts were burning” as he explained the Scriptures. Then joining them at their meal at sundown upon reaching Emmaus, Jesus took the bread, blessed it and broke it — and the disciples’ eyes were opened, recognizing him as the Lord who immediately disappeared! The two then rushed back to Jerusalem to announce to the other disciples that Jesus had indeed risen.

That is the beauty of hiddenness, its giftedness and mystery that we find God even our beloved who had died or not physically present with us but deep within, we are certain of their presence as being so true and so real.

Hiddenness is a deeper level of relationship coming from one’s heart and soul not dependent on physical presence. This is the reason why upon appearing to Mary Magdalene on Easter morning, Jesus asked her not to touch him because from then on, knowing and relating with the Lord need not be physical and corporeal as he used to relate with them before his Death and Resurrection.

All these we must have experienced like when after a friend or a relative had died, that is when we felt growing closer with the person than when he/she was still alive and physically present with us. Or, when we were feeling low and down, we experienced sometimes so amazed at how we have felt the presence even the scent of our deceased loved ones comforting us, assuring us that all would be better.

This quarantine period invites us to experience and discover God anew in his hiddenness through prayers and silence so we can reflect on the many lessons this pandemic is teaching us today. In the darkness and emptiness of this pandemic are grace-filled moments with God hidden in our poverty and sadness, sickness and even deaths around us.

Photo by author, Christmas 2018.

Some people have already asked me about what or how would our Simbang Gabi and Christmas celebrations be. They are sad and worried that it must be a very bleak Christmas for everyone with so many out of work.

But, despite this gloom, I tell them that Christmas 2020 would be one – if not the most meaningful Christmas we shall ever have despite forecasts that there would be less of everything, materially speaking.

So often in life, when we have so much material things, that is when we fail to find and experience God.

Recall that in Bethlehem more that 2000 years ago when Jesus Christ was born, God came to us hidden in a stable, on a manger in the darkness of the night.

And do not forget, too, that Christmas is not a date but an event, the very person of Jesus Christ, the all-powerful God who came to us hidden in a child, who upon becoming an adult, was crucified and died. These are sad and down moments for us but for God, it is his hiddenness, his presence. Let us go and find him again for he continues to come to us in hiddenness. Amen.

The way of the world

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul, Wednesday, Easter Week-VI, 20 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 17:15, 22-18:1 ><)))*> + <*(((>< John 16:12-15

From Facebook, 18 May 2020.

As I prayed over the readings for today, dear Jesus, I felt the great similarity of the time of St. Paul in Athens and of the world in this time of the corona virus that made me wonder what would your apostle tell the people of today who have made the malls as their new temples of worship.

Or, what would St. Paul tell those in government who see businesses as most essential needs, totally disregarding the need to open houses of worship where people can find spiritual nourishment?

What would St. Paul tell us your priests and Bishops who have suddenly become less assertive in pushing for the opening of churches so people may celebrate and receive the sacraments so essential in this time of crisis?

Lord Jesus, you know how like St. Paul we have always stressed to the people that

“The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything.”

Acts of the Apostles 17:24-25

…. and yet, they continue to consider you anything spiritual as non-essential?

Tell us Lord what we must do these days so we may reach the modern pagans and Athenians of this age who have turned to worship to other gods aside from you, O Lord.

May we probe more the reasons why like the Athenians at that time people today still “scoff and leave” when they hear about you, your Resurrection and other spiritual things.

Is it because we would rather massage ourselves with our own thoughts about you and the Divine that seem so magical and more delightful like Hollywood?

How sad that until now, we cannot accept and believe you truly love us so much that you rose again from the dead to bring us back to life too!

Dear Jesus, teach us to be patient and be opened to the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand slowly in your own time at our own pace the realities and truth of your Resurrection.

May the Holy Spirit open us to more imaginative ways like St. Paul in preaching you to the modern pagans and Athenians of today. Amen.

St. Bernardine of Sienna, pray for us!

The “IHS” Christogram: the ancient way of writing the name “Jesus Christ” with the first three letters of his name in Greek substituting the sigma with “S” in Latin. It was St. Bernardine of Sienna who popularized reverence to the Holy Name of Jesus, encouraging Christians to put the letters “IHS” on their doors. Later St.Ignatius of Loyola adopted the Christogram to symbolize his newly founded Society of Jesus that eventually became a part of our Christian art and tradition.

Call of the COVID-19 quarantine: a return to our contemplative spirit

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 29 April 2020

Photo by author, 2010.

This is again for my brother priests and fellow workers in Church communication: our extended “enhanced community quarantine” is a call for us to rediscover the contemplative spirit so essential in our communication apostolate. It is best that before we go in front of the camera, before we post anything at all, or even before we go out doing our social action, let us first have Jesus Christ in us.

After all, it is always Jesus and only Jesus we bring as priests in everything we say and do. Jesus is our life as priests and without him, our works mean nothing. Worst, it may be happening that it is not Jesus whom we are following when we fail to spend time with him in serious prayers that unknown to us, we are already replacing him by creating our own ministry apart from him.

Incidentally, we are celebrating today the Memorial of St. Catherine of Siena who is considered as one of the patron saints for those working in telecommunications and TV stations.

In one of her numerous “ecstatic” visions, it is said that when she was so sick in her room, she begged the Lord to give her a glimpse of the celebration of the Mass in their chapel. The Lord heard her prayer and thus, she became the first person in history to have celebrated Mass by “remote telecast”!

From Google.

Faith and technology

We have mentioned in our previous reflection that we now live our faith in a mass-mediated culture. Media is all around us. And there is always that intense temptation by the devil to put us on TV and the internet to be popular.

So, how do we interact with technology on a daily basis?

What are we posting on Facebook? Are we like the rest who are also hooked into TikTok with all the inanities that go with it?

How much time do we spend for social media and Netflix these days?

And how many hours do we spend before the Blessed Sacrament, excluding our Liturgy of the Hours and praying of the Holy Rosary?

From Google.

We are familiar with Marshall McLuhan’s dictum “the medium is the message”.

This we have seen in the past very evident in our ministry when some priests have transformed the South American telenovelas and later Koreanovelas into a gospel too that people felt like listening to reviews during the homily. And it had given some people the idea that every homily of the priest must say something about television shows! In fact, about three years ago, some priests have to be reminded by the CBCP during the Simbang Gabi to focus only on the Word of God and not on TV shows and jokes to get the attention of their congregation during Mass.

But let us not forget that later in his life, McLuhan added to his dictum that “the medium is the massage” to warn us that sooner or later, we can be eaten up by media that everything is reduced into a show – or a palabas in Filipino that means outward.

That is what a show is, a palabas which is empty or walang laman.

And shallow, mababaw.

That is the sorry state of our many social communication efforts in the Church when we have Masses that have become like entertainment shows, priests becoming entertainers, church buildings and decors that look like videoke bars evoking none of the sacred, and tarps and posters that are all hype without any evangelical meaning.

Observe also how our presentations and shows in our Catholic schools and parish halls have become mere repetitions of what are on television that have left many of us now stuck in Emmaus who could no longer find the way back to Jerusalem, even to Jesus because all we see are the fun and excitement, the glitz and the glamor of media.

And of our massaged ego.

Road to Emmaus from clarusonline.it

Keeping technology in its place in the Church

We are not saying modern communications is evil; the Church has always been clear that these modern means of communications are in fact a gift from God. Vatican II asserts that it is Church’s “birthright” to use and own these modern means of communication for evangelization (Inter Mirifica, 3)

Our challenge in the Church is to keep these modern technologies in its proper place.

A technological culture is not the most hospitable environment for religious belief, but neither is it necessarily hostile. If we are to find a way of expressing our faith in this technological culture and of speaking to and with the people formed by this culture we need to take time to consider how we, as individuals and as a faith community, interact with technology on a daily basis.

James Mcdonnell, Communicating the Gospel in a Technological Age: Rediscovering the Contemplative Spirit (1989)

In a story posted by the CBCP News two days ago, it reported the experience of Filipino priest Fr. Jun Villanueva who contracted the dreaded COVID-19 disease in New York City last March shortly after he had arrived to study there.

Assigned in a parish in the heart of the Big Apple, Fr. Villanueva tells how he spent his days of being “alone literally and emotionally” as “moments with God”. But, his turning point came after recovering from the corona virus when he began celebrating Mass alone:

“I really cried when I first celebrated Mass without churchgoers. There’s no one in the Church except Jesus,” he recalled. “Then I realized that the Mass is not a show but our union with Jesus, whether there are people or none,” he said. “I started to look at the situation from that perspective”.

Fr. Jun Villanueva, CBCP News, 27 April 2020

That is the first step needed to put technology in its proper place in the Church: that we bring back Jesus Christ whom we have banished in the name of our ministry and vocation. The more we think of putting so much “art” and other things to “enhance” our liturgies, then we banish Jesus Christ.

This is the other pandemic we have refused to stop in the Church: triumphalism, the overdoing of things for God that in the process we actually put more of ourselves in the ministry and liturgy than of the Holy.

Is there anyone or anything greater than the Lord?

Remember St. Theresa of Avila: Solo dios basta!

And, like our saints who guide us closer to God, the only way to have Jesus and bring him back in our lives and ministry, in the church as institution and building is through the contemplative spirit of the priests.

It is a good thing that the catch call these days is that the “return to normal” is actually a “return to basics” like washing of hands, covering of mouths when sneezing, and most of all, a return to God.

From Google.

The spirits of modernity characterized by constant changes and technological efficiency do not jibe so well with the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who have always reminded us of guarding against the temptations of the material world.

Jesus tells us to practice poverty but the world tells us to be wealthy.

Jesus asks us to forget ourselves and follow him but the world tells us to be popular and follow the limelight.

Jesus tells us to go down and be humble but the world tells us to rise up and go higher!

The other day, Jesus reminded us in the gospel:

“Do not work for food that perishes but for the food that endures eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him the Father, God, has set his seal.”

John 6:27

Most of the time in the Church and in our lives as priests, we have to be “inefficient” like “waste time” doing nothing in front of the Blessed Sacrament; have less of everything like food, money and clothing; be silent to listen more than to speak and talk more.

The contemplative spirit is about poverty and going down while the world tells us to be wealthy and to rise and go upwards.

The contemplative spirit is to be silent and trusting always in the Lord rather than relying on our own powers and abilities.

Here is James McDonnell again on the need to rediscover the contemplative spirit in communicating the gospel in this modern time.

“The contemplative spirit is an attitude of mind and heart that enables us to focus on the essential, important things. It refuses to be hurried or rushed into premature rejection or acceptance of technology. If we Christians allow it to inform our use of communication technologies we shall learn to be realistic, but always hopeful, able to love and reverence our culture even as we strive, with God’s help, to transform it.”

Communicating the Gospel in a Technological Age: Rediscovering the Contemplative Spirit (1989)

Take heart, my dear brother priests: we are representatives of Jesus Christ, our Eternal Priest. We are not entertainers and pleasers of anyone but of God alone. We do not need followers and likers. And we have so many other things to do than TikTok and Facebook or Instagram.

Let us go back to Nazareth to be silent and hidden so we can return to Jerusalem to await for further instructions from the Lord. Amen.

“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio. From Google.

Some lessons from Emmaus

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 April 2020

This is for my brother priests and fellow communicators in the church who might be failing to recognize Jesus Christ along the way and sadly, stuck at Emmaus.

That very day, the first day of the week, two of Jesus’ disciples were going to a village seven miles from Jerusalem called Emmaus, and they were conversing about all the tings that had occurred. And it happened that while they were conversing and debating, Jesus himself drew near and walked with them, but their eyes were prevented from recognizing him.

Luke 24:13-16

We live our faith today in a mass-mediated culture.

Media is all around us.

Vatican II tells us that these modern means of communications are gifts from God that are “necessary for the formation of Christians and for pastoral activity” (Inter Mirifica, 3).

Communication is a sharing in the power of God who created everything by just saying “Let there be…”. When this power to communicate is mishandled and eventually abused, sooner or later, it can blind us and prevent us from recognizing Jesus in our midst.

And sadly, it is already happening.

Even before the start of the enhanced community quarantine, many of us were already using the various platforms of social media proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ.

But, are our hearts still burning deep inside in him and for him?

Is Jesus still the One we are proclaiming, or are we now trying to be like the so-called “influencers” of the secular world that we are more preoccupied and focused with gimmicks and antics, shows and bravaduras for the sake of followers and likes?

Are our hearts still burning with the Sacred Scriptures or the words of the world that we have made our ambos and altars like studios and stage complete with all the props to tickle the bones of people than build up their faith and experience Jesus?

On the road to Emmaus, after Cleopas had expressed their feelings and thoughts to Jesus, he and his companion fell silent and simply listened to Jesus explaining the Sacred Scriptures. No need to shout or mimic voices.

No need to keep on clapping hands like in a circus or even dance like Salome who later asked for the head of St. John the Baptist.

It is sad that on the road to Emmaus, it has become our monologue, our show that Jesus can no longer speak.

Remember that “in the beginning was the word, and the word became flesh”: God’s communication is always preceded by silence.

Even in the road to Emmaus, there was total silence when Jesus spoke that the two disciples were silent that they felt their hearts burning.

As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went to stay with them. And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he spoke to us on the way and opened the Scriptures to us?” So they set out at once and returned to Jerusalem where they found gathered together the eleven and those with them…

Luke 24:28-33

The Mass and our Priesthood are both a mystery so unique especially for us. It is something beyond explanation without much physical descriptions but more of inner recognition.

Exactly like Easter: the moment we recognize Jesus in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, he vanishes because he is more than enough than anybody or anything else in the Mass and in our ministry in general.

Even in our very own lives!

St. Mother Teresa asked us priests long ago to “always give (them) Jesus, only Jesus”. And that will always be valid until the end of time when Jesus comes again.

And here lies the great lesson for us from Emmaus: the more we try harder, insisting on giving “physical appearances” of Jesus in our celebrations with our showbiz kind of preaching complete with a song and dance number to the excessive use of modern means of communications like slide presentations during homilies to our “creative liturgies” that are very distracting to other trappings of overdoing everything called “triumphalism” — that is when we BANISH Jesus from the scene.

In Emmaus, Jesus vanished when the disciples’ eyes were opened.

In some Masses today, unfortunately, Jesus is banished and many eyes are not only left closed but sadly, even blinded.

“Supper at Emmaus” by Caravaggio.

We are priests called to preside the celebration of the Eucharist in persona Christi.

We priests do not own the Mass and we cannot insist on whatever we want to do, even if it is very pleasing and delighting to the senses of the people.

Do away wit all those “styles” and gimmicks.

Jesus saved us not with activities; Jesus saved us by dying on the Cross.

If all we are concerned with is to “feel good”, to tickle our bones and senses, our eyes – and those of the people we serve and bring closer to God would never be opened to recognize Jesus Christ.

Our Masses and other celebrations need only Jesus, always Jesus.

There is no need to put our pictures in every tarpaulin or announcement. Rest assured that every disciple of Jesus is always good-looking and handsome. Believe. And stop bragging it.

Let us have him always and let others recognize him from within. If there is no inner recognition of Jesus, maybe we have never met him at all. Neither in Emmaus nor in Jerusalem nor in our selves.

A blessed week ahead of you, my brother priests and fellow communicators of Christ, in Christ.

“The (unCatholic and unChristian) Two Popes”

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 23 December 2019

From Netflix.

As early as Friday night after my second Simbang Gabi Mass at 8:30, I have been wanting to react on social media against Netflix’s “The Two Popes”.

But I tried to control my self because I have only seen its first 30 minutes – and besides, it is a fiction story. So, in the spirit of fairness, I tried to finish the movie in three installments until Saturday afternoon before making any comments.

And I felt sad in having seen it at all.

“The Two Popes” is not entertaining. It is misleading without any strong elements to build on our faith and appreciate our religion. At its worst, despite its claim of being inspired by true events, the movie is unCatholic and unChristian.

From Google.

UnCatholic and UnChristian

Movies about religions and religious figures and personalities are always controversial by nature. But for as long as they follow the paths of honesty, sincerity, and truth, these movies eventually emerge as true expressions of art that can truly deepen one’s faith.

But “The Two Popes” at its opening scene is already disturbing and objectionable when it portrayed the Cardinals at the 2005 conclave as having animosity and rivalry among themselves in electing Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.

Yes, we priests including bishops and Cardinals are all humans like anybody else but no one among us would ever dare to aspire for the papacy. While it is true there are some priests who are into “careerism” in the diocesan level, everything changes starting with the episcopacy or the office of the bishop.

In fact, part of the problem why we have so many vacant dioceses in the country and the whole world is that many priests refuse to accept their appointment as bishops because of many fears that are so real that come with the immense responsibilities of the position. According to the Vatican, three out of every ten priests offered to become bishops decline the offer personally made by the Pope through his Papal Nuncio in every country.

How much more with the Papacy?!

In the movie, Pope Benedict toured Cardinal Bergoglio inside the Sistine Chapel and showed him the “crying room” where the newly elected Pope may stay and cry – yes – before finally accepting his election as Pope.

That alone is true but not the movie portrayal during the conclave that claim Cardinals aspiring to become the Pope. It is something preposterous and totally untrue.

Catholic World Report

What is very disturbing in “The Two Popes” is how it presented Cardinal Ratzinger and Cardinal Bergoglio like “lowlife” lawmakers of congress gunning for the top post for prestige and power with their respective bloc members going around in hushed conversations with matching dagger looks at each other.

This is the movie’s weakest point: rather than being seen as something about deepening our faith in God and the institutional Church or any established religion for that matter, it played on “politics” in the guise of showing the flaws and frailties of two popes competing for position and fame.

You might say “it is just a movie” but, not everyone can rightly see whatever good intentions – if it really has – that the movie is trying to present.

Instead of enlightening the viewers in their faith to the Church in general, there was something sinister in the way it presented almost everyone except Cardinal Bergoglio.

Behind the movie’s beautiful cinematography and studio sets are “subliminal messages” as if inciting viewers to dismiss the Catholic Church and other religions because they are all the same – run by egoistic, power hungry people enjoying so many luxuries in life that the common masses could not even imagine to exist.

We priests are sinners and though there are some of us who have sold Jesus like Judas Iscariot for the price of wealth and fame, there are much too many who still work in silence and hiddenness and holiness bringing Christ to the people.

The Catholic Church has continued to exist since Christ’s ascension because the good shepherds like Jesus have always far outnumbered the rotten ones. Hence, those scenes repeated twice or thrice of Pope Benedict worried with his “popularity” are outrageously absurd!

The Catholiy abc Sun.

Bias against Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

The movie is supposed to show us how two great men of God, of divergent backgrounds and worlds apart, resolved their many conflicts within themselves and with others regarding their faith and ministry and mission in leading the Catholic Church.

Both actors, especially Anthony Hopkins did superb jobs in playing their roles.

The movie tried to show the triumph of the Divine in mysterious ways we can never explain nor understand using men of limitations and weaknesses.

What makes “The Two Popes” so unkind and unchristian is the fact that it is more about Pope Francis as the vida and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI as contravida. It could have been better if the producers just centered on the present Holy Father as basis of their film and called it “The Pope”. Period.

How can it be a film about faith and religion when the plot itself is unfair and grossly biased against the supposed co-star who is also a Pope?

The movie is also unfair to Pope Francis who would surely never allow himself to be praised and exalted at the expense of the Pope Emeritus or any other person, whether in real life or fiction.

This for me is the most unkindest cut of all in this Netflix movie that fans the many wrong impressions fed on by media against Cardinal Josef Ratzinger since his being the Prefect of Sacred Congregation of Doctrine and Faith during the time of St. John Paul II.

Throughout the film, it is very evident at how the Pope Emeritus is put on the bad light as if he never cared at all about actual situations in the Church and in the world, from the sex scandals to issues on celibacy among other things because he is so absorbed in his intellectual pursuits in the world of books and the academe.

We are of Christ

In 1963, the American film “The Cardinal” was released, earning six Academy Awards and very positive reviews for excellently portraying Catholic religion amid issues of interfaith marriage, sex outside marriage, abortion, racism, and dictatorships set during the Second World War.

It was also inspired by true events based on the life of the late Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.

Its music theme has become a classic piece too that we have all learned by heart while still in high school seminary.

I can still remember the film that showed in a very positive light the main character with all his flaws and shortcomings as a person, as a priest. No need to put other characters down just to underscore his goodness.

The film had a Vatican liaison officer in the person of the young German priest Fr. Dr. Josef Ratzinger who, after that movie, would be attending Vatican II as a periter or consultant to join the efforts in reforming the Church and make it more responsive to modern time.

Yes, the very same Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI portrayed in the Netflix movie as “ignorant” of the Beatles and of tango and of many other things of the modern world.

Netflix

“The Two Popes” ended positively with the “unlikely friendships” of Pope Benedict and Cardinal Bergoglio but still with its askewed presentation of the two holy men, of the people in Vatican, and of the Church’s members and leaders.

So unlike the classic “The Cardinal”, “The Two Popes” missed the essence of the papacy and of the Church as an institution and a body of believers – that Christianity is not about categories or labels as conservatives, progressives, or liberals: it is about our being of Jesus Christ alone.

It is deceivingly appealing to the senses but nothing really so profound about faith and Jesus Christ and his Church. With hindsight, though, after seeing the movie, the more I have come to love and admire Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI for his love and faith in Jesus and the Church.

And Jesus told his disciples… “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me” (Mt.5:11).

Have a blessed Christmas!

Who is my Neighbor.com?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 15 July 2019
Photo by John Bonding, Architecture&Design Magazine, 25 May 2019 via Facebook.

This is not another homily about yesterday’s Parable of the Good Samaritan. I am very sure you have heard so much about it. In fact, you must have memorized that parable, too. And most likely, you also believe there is nothing else new in that parable. Its conviction remains true that we are all neighbors, that the question we must be asking is not “who is my neighbor” but, “do I act as a neighbor to others”?

However, in this complicated age of tweets and hashtags when everything is shortened, either abbreviated or initialized, the question “who is my neighbor” has become very legitimate again these days when technology has taken the center stage of our lives and relationships.

Two months ago I officiated the wedding of a friend’s youngest brother who sent me a gist of their “love story” that I may incorporate in my homily. Fact is, I have already worked out the outline of my homily for his wedding except that I really had a hard time deciphering the meaning of the three letters he had mentioned about their love story: “LDR”.

After several minutes, I finally got what he meant with those letters that stand for “Long Distance Relationship”.

Okay, I admit being too old for those kind of talkies with so many abbreviations that litter Facebook posts from “OMG” to “ootd” with a host of other letter combinations that I really do not understand at all even when given with their meanings.

This sudden surge in usage of so many abbreviations and initials is spawned by modern technologies in communication that still continue to evolve. Truly, the medium is the message. When we were growing up in the 70’s and 80’s, typewriters reigned supreme. We knew only two important abbreviations that time, “cc” for “carbon copy” and “asap” for “as soon as possible”.

With the demise of Messrs. Remington and Underwood following the rise of PC’s and Macs along with smartphones that all use the venerable “qwerty” board of old, we are now deluged with all of these initials and abbreviations. At least, those hardly used signs on the typewriter keys like @, #, and _ finally came more alive in this age of dot.coms.

There is nothing wrong with these developments but when these abbreviations and initials as well as signs and symbols are applied onto humans, problems begin to happen. This is when people are “materialized” while things are “personalized”. See how the benighted souls on television, from program hosts and celebrities to journalists using the Filipino personal pronoun “siya” for he/she/his/her when speaking of food and typhoons like “masarap siya” (he/she is delicious) or “siya ay magbubuhos ng ulan” (he/she will pour rains). How insanely they use the Filipino demonstrative pronoun “ito” or this for persons like “ito ang nanay ko” (this is my mother instead of she is my mother) or “ito ang mahal ko” (this is my beloved instead of he/she is my beloved)!

You see how we have now come to regard persons as things and things as persons?

And worst, we now see persons as food to be eaten and consumed when good looking men and women are described as “yummy” and “delicious”. It is utilitarianism at its worst when people are seen like food as if they are good only when “fresh, hot and tasty” but when already old and sickly, they are regarded like leftovers kept on the fridge, even discarded. In the same manner, see how in our country we take people like ice cream with those belonging to the “AB” crowd or the rich and famous as “flavor of the month” or “all-time favorite” while those from the lower segment of the society, the “CDE” or “chineleas-duster-estero” crowd as “dirty ice cream” or sorbetes.

From Google.

Here lies the legitimacy of the question who is my neighbor? — when we not only shorten words for the sake of convenience and do the same to persons, shortchanging them with the respect and dignity we all deserve.

A friend and fellow blogger recently wrote a piece about the growing number of young people who are so inconsiderate in using specific lanes and counters reserved for seniors and PWD’s in malls and stores. Even in churches, there are also inconsiderate, and hypocrite or unChristian, able-bodied people occupying pews reserved for seniors and PWD’s, claiming they will just leave and move when they arrive?! How I really feel like adding to our notes that “This pew is reserved for seniors and PWD’s. And morons too.”

How ironic that in this age when almost everyone is supposed to be tech savvy, being able to read every sign and logo yet refuse to respect give way to our seniors and PWD’s. Here is a classic case of us having smartphones but not so smart people, guided missiles and misguided children. They are like the Levite and the priest in the parable of the Good Samaritan who simply “saw” the victim lying on the road, failing to see him as another person in need. Unlike the Samaritan who saw the victim and was moved with compassion to help him.

From Google.

The question “who is my neighbor” becomes more legitimate and pressing when we in the Church, in our own homes and family are overtaken by things of the world, from money and gadgets to fame and convenience that we not only forget one another but ultimately Jesus Christ our Lord and Master.

When we are more concerned with raising funds or earning money for more buildings, more gadgets, for more privileges and convenience, becoming vain even if beyond our means or not in our calling and state of life, that is when people start asking again “who is my neighbor” because nobody seem to care anymore. No one is with compassion and mercy anymore that everybody seem to have become robots and sadly, inhuman when all we see are things than persons.

The Church since Vatican II has always seen these modern means of communications as gifts from God meant to be used for the the “advancement and unity” of man (Communio et Progressio). Let us put technology and things at their proper place. And that is always at the service of mankind and glory of God.