“King of Pain” by The Police (1983)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 01 November 2020
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, Bohol, 2019.

I have lined up some songs with “heaven” in their titles or lyrics for this Sunday’s celebration of All Saints’ Day and tomorrow’s All Souls’ Day; but, during prayers and reflections, I kept on hearing Sting singing in my head King of Pain which is my most favorite among his long list of great music.

Our celebrations this November first and second are a mixture of joy and mourning, of heaven and sufferings, of life and death. As we remember today those already in heaven and tomorrow pray for those awaiting entrance into heaven, we also remember on these twin dates the death of loved ones.

No matter how much we may extoll the redemptive nature of death not as an end but a beginning of eternal life, we cannot miss the sadness and pain it brings to everyone that is always for a lifetime.

And that is what hope is all about: hope does not remove sadness or pain. When we hope of getting into heaven with our departed loved ones, no matter how blissful heaven may be, we always have to deal with the hurts of losing a parent or a spouse, a sibling or a friend.

To hope means to firmly believe that when things get worst, even unto death, there is Life itself, God remaining in the end, loving us, taking us to his presence in heaven to live life in its fullness in him.

To hope means to face new beginnings in this life amid the pains we have in our hearts from deaths and separations, believing that someday, if not in this life, everything would be whole and perfect again.

That is why I find King of Pain more apt for All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day.

Written by Sting in 1982 at the Goldeneye Estate in Jamaica where Ian Fleming wrote his first James Bond novels, King of Pain expresses the inner torments he was going through as an individual at that time — his recent divorce from his first wife and growing misunderstanding with his other two colleagues, Andrew Summers and Stewart Copeland. They eventually parted ways after the release of the Synchronicity album from which King of Pain came in 1983.

The beat, the music and the lyrics seem to be dark and melancholic at first but as you get the feel of the entire song sung by Sting, then you realize it is actually about a man struggling with sadness or even depression, of a man filled with hopes until you realize it is speaking about you as king of pain.

Aren’t we all the king of pain in one or the other?

And as we bear all the pains, we keep on forging on with life, we never resign but keep hoping even for a piece of heaven, of the sun to celebrate life each day until we make it to the Other Side like our departed loved ones.

All in the grace of a loving God. Amen.

Provided to YouTube by Universal Music Group

We are blessed, meant to be saints

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Solemnity of All Saints, 01 November 2020
Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14   |+|   1 John 3:1-3   |+|   Matthew 5:1-12
“Mary and the Saints” painting by Duccio di Buonoinsegna (1308-1311) from en.wikipedia.org.

Let me begin our reflection on this All Saints’ Day with a joke from the “Language Nerds” on how the past, the present and the future came and appeared in a bar. Everybody was tense.


Our celebrations today and tomorrow deal with “verb tenses” – the past, the present, and the future that somehow converge in the here and now of Jesus Christ our Lord. We call it the tension of the already here but not yet, like God and heaven – both already here but not yet.

All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day are two Catholic celebrations so unique and distinctive of our faith that bring to the fore the beautiful tensions of the “here and not yet”, of that convergence of the temporal and eternal in our present lives.

It is something like our Filipino delicacies of tuyo (dried fish) and balut (fermented duck egg): when you smell the aroma of the frying tuyo by your neighbor, you could taste it but if you want to really experience its delight, you have to go to your neighbor and join their meal. Or the balut: is it an egg or a duckling?

In a similar manner, we find in our Gospel today that proverbial question of which came first, the egg or the chicken? Are we blessed because we followed the Beatitudes first or, are we blessed first that we can practice the Beatitudes of Christ?

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land. Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be sown mercy. Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. Blessed are….

Matthew 5:1-8
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We are all blessed

When Jesus preached his sermon on the mount to launch his ministry, he first presented himself — that he is the Christ, the Anointed or Blessed One because he is in fact the Beatitudes: he is the poor in spirit, the merciful and meek, the one with a clean heart.

Inasmuch as the Beatitudes tell us who is Jesus Christ, the Beatitudes also challenge us followers of Jesus to imitate and follow him in being poor in spirit, merciful, and clean of heart.

At first glance, we notice that blessedness seems like a reward given by Jesus after we have imitated him like being blessed after being insulted and persecuted in his name, working for peace and hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

However, the very fact we are able to bear all these sufferings to live the Beatitudes means that we are already blessed.

And that is the truth: in Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection, we have all been blessed by God that we are able to live as his beloved children, now living in his “kingdom of heaven” right here on earth.

Beloved: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are… we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure.

1 John 3:1, 2-3

Blessedness is who we are as children of God unless we choose to live otherwise.

Blessedness is God’s gift to us that enables us to live according to his will and plans, projecting us further into the future to finally be with him in all eternity in heaven. When we try to live the Beatitudes of Jesus, of going against the tide and flow of the world where power and wealth, popularity and fame are the means life is measured, then that becomes our gift to God.

And that is when we enter into heaven and become saints like what we celebrate today.

According to St. John Paul II, the good news of life is that we all share in the life of God — and that is why we are all blessed.

Our sharing in the life of God makes us blessed.

The difference that we have with the saints is just the tenses: they are now celebrating at present the fullness of their blessedness, of being present before God in all eternity in heaven because they have so well accomplished while living here on earth the works of the Beatitudes of Christ in the past. They have overcome all tests and trials in the past and now having the rewards of full blessedness.

We, on the other hand, though already sharing in the blessed life of God here on earth in the present, still have to face and endure many other trials in the future to perfect ourselves in Christ until we get a final glimpse of him in the afterlife.

Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, MD, at Spain, 2018.

Blessedness is a relationship with God.

It is now clear with us that saints are like us who are blessed because we share in the life of God. However, saints enjoy the fullness of this blessedness of being in the very presence of God as a “reward” or a result of their striving with God’s grace to live out the Beatitudes.

Saints now enjoy the eternal presence of God, the fullness of blessedness and fullness of their relationship in God and with God, from earth into heaven.

This is the reason we have a feast for all the saints or those who have gone ahead of us and tried to lead holy lives, living out their blessedness that they now enjoy the eternal presence of God in heaven. They need not be declared by the Church as saints whoever gets into heaven in the presence of God is a saint.

We who are still living here on earth, though blessed as we share in the life of God, cannot be considered as saints yet because we still have to go through a lot of purifications, of tasks in loving.

Again, we see that tension of the here and not yet in this aspect of being saints, of blessedness: heaven is eternal union with God (hell is eternal separation from God); blessedness and heaven are both our relationships with God.

Therefore, the challenge of our blessedness here on earth as seen in the Beatitudes of Jesus is how we maintain and keep that intimate relationship with God that every choice we make is always a choice for life, of choosing to love than hate, to forgive than revenge, to understand and let go.

In the first reading, John tells us of his vision of heaven with great multitude of “saints” or holy men and women “wearing white robes holding palm branches in their hands”. The Lord told him,

“These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

Revelation 7:14

Although we are extolling in this solemnity all the unnamed saints now in heaven, this is still a feast celebrating the goodness of God, of his immense love for us in blessing us in Jesus Christ who enables us to do good in the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we remember all the Saints, we celebrate also this sharing of God’s life in us for us to be blessed, assuring us of being saints someday!

We are challenged today to live out this blessedness freely given to us by God by being more loving with others specially in this time of COVID-19 as well as when two super typhoons are threatening to slam into some parts of our country this week.


A short note about cemeteries

Sometimes, non-Catholics laugh at us every November first when we troop to the cemeteries to be with our departed loved ones instead of November 2. Despite the closure of cemeteries this week due to COVID-19, many have earlier visited their loved ones in cemeteries while the rest among us would surely do the same once the ban is lifted.

Is there something wrong? NONE. Except for those who just go to cemeteries to drink and have fun without praying and celebrating Mass in their parishes. But there is nothing wrong with our tradition of visiting cemeteries on November first.

In fact, it is a vibrant display of our faith in God because every time we visit the dead on All Saints’ Day, we also presume they are already saints, already in heaven.

Most of all, our coming to the cemeteries on All Saints’ Day is an expression of our hope in heaven while still here on earth.

The cemetery reminds us of hope in the future. In the past when we buried our dead, the cemetery has become the place of our mourning; but, every November first, the cemetery reminds us it is the place of hope where sadness is not really removed but where we find strength and faith that like our departed loved ones, we shall overcome all trials and sufferings here on earth to be one with them in the presence of God in heaven.

That is the good news of All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day: we are so blessed by God in Jesus Christ who had opened our access into heaven not only in the future when we die but even now as we mourn – and celebrate the memory of our dead, we already have a taste of eternal life.

May we live out this blessedness God has given us. Amen.

Hope. And be surprised!

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 14 October 2020
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, the Holy Land, May 2019.

HOPE. A favorite word among us, used as an expression for things to get better, especially when we express our “hope” God grants what we pray for, or, in ending our letters of request with “hoping for your kind consideration”.

Even Hollywood is fond of this virtue, portraying it as a reserved power to overcome evil when Neo in the 2003 The Matrix Revolutions was summoned into action to defend their city because he was the only one with “hope”.

Or, something like a turbo charger that will boost every leap of faith when Toretto in Fast and Furious 6 handed to his rival Owen Shaw the computer chip they were tasked to retrieve in the “hope” of getting it back even if they have to chase a giant Antonov An-124 plane taking off.

Of course, Neo and Toretto succeeded in their efforts filled with hope, defeating evil.

But, that is not what hope is all about.


To hope is different from optimism, of believing things can get better;
in fact, we hope because things can get worst.

The late Fr. Henri Nouwen wrote in one of his books that to hope means having that firm conviction within that even if things get worst like death, we are certain God will never forsake us for he loves us very much.

Jesus Christ showed us this true meaning of hope when he decided to go to Jerusalem to accomplish his mission by dying on the Cross for our salvation. I love the way Luke narrated in his gospel this attitude of Jesus in showing us the path of hope amid his knowledge things would get worst than before leading to his Passion and Death (and Resurrection):

When the days for his being taken up were fulfilled, he (Jesus) resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem…

Luke 9:51

Imagine Jesus “resolutely determined” going to Jerusalem, the very same attitude of saints witnessing the Gospel by facing martyrdom. It is also very true with us when we say our only hope is the Lord when we know of sure death while facing a serious illness.

To hope is to be “resolutely determined” like Jesus and the saints along with our loved ones to follow the arduous path of life, of putting up the good fight against sickness or injustice and evil even if they knew things will lead unto death. At first we wonder, what victory can we claim if in the end we die like the saints and martyrs?

That’s the mystery and paradox of hope: to hope is to completely trust in God that death is not the end of life or any struggle but the highest point of our transformation as we dive to life’s lowest level like defeat, loss, and death when we pray like Jesus on the Cross, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Lk.23:46).

Hope is faith severely tested, believing and abandoning everything to God, come what may.

Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago, Fatima, Portugal, 2016.

Hope is clearly not positive thinking nor optimism; hope is “faith in God” as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI tells us in his second encyclical, Spe Salvi (2007). According to Pope Benedict, hope gives us the direction towards the future by enabling us to face the challenges of this life leading to salvation and eternal life.

In this sense it is true that anyone who does not know God, even though he may entertain all kinds of hope, is ultimately without the great hope that sustains the whole of life (Eph.2:12). Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God — God who has loved us and who continues to love us “to the end,” until all “is accomplished” (Jn.13:1 and 19:30)… If we are in a relation with him who does not die, who is Life itself and Love itself, then we are in life. Then we “live”.

Spe Salvi, #27

Four weeks ago, a former parishioner had asked me for prayers for her husband with liver cancer. Both are medical doctors; in fact, it was her husband who had actually diagnosed himself while going through radiological lab exam.

It was at that time they “resolutely determined” to go home and face the inevitable by praying together, hoping together in God.

Here lies the mystery and paradox of hope we were talking earlier: why and what do we really hope when we know it is going to end in death?

God. Nothing else and nobody else. God is the reason we hope and what we hope for.

It is only when we have been stripped of everything else when we truly “see” and experience God is all we have in life after all.

Then we become confident God will never abandon us until the end.

That is what my friend and her husband have realized, especially when Dr. Mike died two weeks later after going home.

When I celebrated Mass at his wake, I could not resist telling my friend how the smile of her husband is the sweetest, even most infectious one I have ever seen on the lips of a dead person in my 22 years as a priest!

Truly, the Lord loved Dr. Mike until the end that he died with a smile as the fruit of his hoping in God with his wife.

Indeed, friends have told me that God will give us the grace to face our death when that time comes; and I believe them because I have seen them transformed after accepting their terminal condition that they no longer cry of their situation getting worst while those to be left behind in turn become the ones crying knowing their beloved is passing (https://lordmychef.com/2020/09/22/the-gift-of-tears/).


Hope surprises.
Even God.

Photo by author, 2019.

When I was on my second year of seminary formation in theology, I experienced the most severe test of my vocation to the priesthood that I almost left and abandoned all plans of becoming a priest at all.

What sustained me in the seminary were prayers — and some lines from T.S. Eliot’s very long poem “Four Quartets” published in 1941:

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Too bad I have lost the index card on which I wrote this stanza which I posted on my study lamp, reading it daily even until I have become a priest.

To truly hope, one has to get totally lost and empty, stripped naked of our very selves when darkness is our only light and hopelessness is our only hope.

It is when we have totally lost everything except God when we truly hope.

And that is when all the surprises happen, not only with ourselves but with others.

Not only here but definitely even in eternity, the biggest surprise we are all hoping for.

Photo by author at Silang, Cavite, 22 September 2020.

In 1912, the French poet Charles Pierre Péguy (1873-1914) wrote a very long poem ahead of T.S. Eliot about the virtue of hope, claiming it is God’s favorite because it is full of surprises.

Péguy portrayed Hope as a “little girl” who enlivens her older sisters Faith and Love.

I do not want to dilute its magic and power so I leave it that way for you to savor its sweetness, its truth and beauty in Péguy’s poetry:

The faith that I love best, says God, is hope. Faith doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. I am so resplendent in my creation…. That in order not to see me these poor people would have to be blind. Charity, says God, that doesn’t surprise me. It’s not surprising. These poor creatures are so miserable that unless they had a heart of stone, how could they not have love for each other…. But hope, says God, that is something that surprises me. Even me. That is surprising.

Charles Péguy, The Portal of the Mystery of the Second Virtue

Sometimes in life, we have to hit rock bottom in order to truly hope. Keep hoping and you will surely be surprised by God, by others, and by our very selves that we are always blessed! Amen.

Beauty in our mortality

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Week XXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 19 September 2020
1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-49     || + ||     Luke 8:4-15
“The Sower” painting by Van Gogh, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Dearest Lord Jesus,

Today I wish to repeat my prayer to you yesterday: Please grant me St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart in explaining and leading others to faith in you, most especially in believing the resurrection of the dead.

While we all profess faith in the resurrection of the dead, most of us are still puzzled like the Corinthians who could not accept it.

Here I have found St. Paul’s clarity of mind and purity of heart at its best when he wrote us the most wonderful and loveliest explanation of death and dying that lead to transformation and new life.

Brothers and sisters: Someone may say, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come back?” You fool! What you sow is not brought to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be but a bare kernel of wheat, perhaps, or of some other kind. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown corruptible; it is raised incorruptible. It is sown dishonorable; it is raised glorious. It is sown weak; it is raised powerful. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:35-37, 42-44

In this time of the pandemic when death has become so “ordinary” and most of all, “so closest to home”, I pray for the many people now facing death in their hospital beds, in their homes comforted by the loving presence of family, as well as for those left alone to themselves due to so many reasons only you can understand. And forgive.

Bless those with advanced stages of cancer, those awaiting transplants, for those in their terminal stages. Give them the grace of hope, to continue to love even if things are getting worst than better.

Ease their pains, Jesus, and make them feel your loving presence with them on the cross.

Most of all, transform them like the seeds after having died and sown in good soil, grew and produced fruit a hundredfold. Amen.

Complaining from the heart, complaining from the mind

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 2020
Number 21:4-9   >><)))*>   Philippians 2:6-11   >><)))*>   John 3:13-17
Photo by author, Lent 2019.

Thank you very much, God our loving Father, for this Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross of your Son Jesus Christ. Please increase our patience lest we complain like your people at the desert to Moses.

With their patience worn out by the journey, the people complained against God and Moses, “Why have you brought us up from Egypt to die in this desert, where there is no food or water? We are disgusted with this wretched food!

Numbers 21:4-5

You know, dear God, how we feel right now after seven months of journey in the pandemic: we are tired and exhausted, wearied and anxious, most of all, afraid of how things can go worst specially with the incompetence of our government officials.

Please, grant us patience to continue with the journey but allow us too to complain from our hearts, to cry out our pains and fears to you because it is only you who can help us in our situation. Most of all, let us complain from our hearts as an expression of faith and hope in you, Lord.

We are convinced of your love and presence but sometimes we are overwhelmed by the sufferings and difficulties on this period of the pandemic that we think more of ourselves, of our well-being that we forget you are our companion in the journey.

We fail and even refuse to see you in this journey as we complain from our minds, when we are filled with pride, believing in our ourselves that we question you, when we dare you, when we think of ways of manipulating you in our favor.

Open our eyes to see again on this feast and celebrate how you have transformed the worst signs of death and torture in history to be the doorway to life and healing like snakes becoming medicines to snake bites and the cross becoming the sign of love.

Open our minds that instead of complaining of the death of Jesus Christ, we celebrate his resurrection and glory in heaven. Instead of dwelling on pain and suffering, we focus more on healing and salvation.

May we keep in our minds that taking the form of a slave, of carrying our crosses leads to your exaltation, our loving and merciful Father. Amen.

Photo by author of Brazen Serpent Monument on Mt. Nebo inside the Franciscan Monastery in Jordan, May 2019.

Conversing with God in time of COVID-19

40 Shades of Lent, Sunday Week-V, Year-A, 29 March 2020

Ezekiel 37:12-14 +++ Romans 8:8-11 +++ John 11:1-45

Photo by Ms. Anne Ramos last March 22, 2020 during our procession of Blessed Sacrament in the Parish when a rainbow appeared at the horizon.

Once again as we near the closing of our Lenten journey, Jesus does another “sign” or miracle — his last and grandest in anticipation of his coming Passion, Death, and Resurrection: the raising from death of his friend Lazarus.

What is so beautiful in this story is how the evangelist involves us his readers and hearers into a conversation with Jesus unlike last Sunday at the healing of a man born blind where the characters conversed only among themselves.

The raising of Lazarus to life is more engaging because it is deeply personal and intimate as it involves friends dearest to Jesus — exactly like each one of us! And that is why it is also very timely as we go through the ongoing lockdown due to COVID-19.

When Jesus heard this he said, “This illness is not to end in death, but is for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

John 11:4

My dear family and friends, Jesus assures us today of the Father’s love and healing, that he would save us from the deadly corona virus. Come and let us converse with him with the sisters of Lazarus, Martha and Mary.

After my “private Mass” (Missa sine populo) during the Solemnity of the Annunciation, 25 March 2020.

Presence of Jesus

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask of God, God will give you.”

John 11:21-22

Twice do we hear this line in this very long story of the raising of Lazarus when Mary repeated it upon meeting Jesus later at the entrance of their town of Bethany.

And like Martha and Mary, we always say it to Jesus too as if he ever leaves us alone!

“Lord, if you had been here…”

Jesus is always with us.

We are the ones who always leave Jesus behind.

We always have so many other things to do, so many other people to meet that we have no time to truly pray and most of all, celebrate the Sunday Mass every week.

It is my hope that following the suspension of the “public Masses” due to lockdown, people now realize the value of the Holy Eucharist which is the “summit” of our Christian life where we are nourished by the words of God and strengthened by the Body and Blood of Christ.

Photo from Forbes.com via Facebook, 2019.

Long before we were told to observe “social distancing” in this time of pandemic, we have long been distant from one another and from God.

How ironic that these modern means of communications were invented to bring us closer but have actually brought us farther apart! Most often, we are close enough with someone miles across the seas but too distant and cold to persons physically near us, even seated beside us.

Let us spend more time with our family and most especially with God in prayer during this enhanced quarantine period to be the presence of Christ with one another. Let us remember Fr. Patrick Peyton’s expression, “The family that prays together, stays together; a world at prayer is a world at peace”.

Remember: the most wonderful and enriching relationships we can have are those rooted in Jesus Christ who is always present in us.

Jesus is perturbed and deeply troubled

While praying over this long gospel, this photo by Raffy Lerma kept on flashing in my mind, showing me how Jesus must have reacted upon seeing Mary weeping over the death of her brother Lazarus.

He became perturbed and deeply troubled, and said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Sir, come and see.” And Jesus wept.

John 11:33-35

Like our gospel today, Lerma’s photo of a mother crying over her son lost to “tokhang” at the height of this administration’s war against drug in July 2016 is very conversant, so moving like the Pieta by Michaelangelo in Rome. In fact, the government doubted the veracity of the photo, claiming through its trolls it was merely “staged” or “drawing” as we say in journalism. The photo is authentic because the event truly happened. And continued to happen before this lockdown.

What I like most with this photo is the composure of the mother. You can feel she was deeply sad and troubled, weeping without the hysterical theatrics or palahaw in Tagalog that we see in many instances like funerals.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

Multiply that to the highest degree and we get the image of Jesus “perturbed and deeply troubled, weeping” at the death of his friend Lazarus.

There is the gentle yet firm mastery by Jesus of the situation, of the loss and tragedy.

No hysterics nor theatrics. Pure and all-encompassing presence.

It would be the same mastery and composure Jesus would exhibit at his coming Passion and Death, reaching its highest point on Easter.

Here we find Jesus Christ truly human, truly Divine. Yes, he was perturbed and deeply troubled; he cried and wept not because of weakness but rather more of strength, of being true and determined in overcoming not only his coming Passion but most of all, our own setbacks and losses.

Have faith, my dear reader. Jesus is surely “perturbed and deeply troubled, weeping” again with us in this time of the corona pandemic. Step back and let him be himself in being one with us; then, wait and see what he is going to do next for us.

Photo from theguardian.com, 19 March 2020 reporting how a “generation has died” in Bergamo, Italy struggling with 1959 deaths from corona virus that has overwhelmed the nation’s funeral sector.

Jesus joins us in death so we can rise to life in him

Today is not a beautiful day to die, especially for victims of COVID-19. No wakes. No Masses. Just simple blessings after cremation. If ever possible.

The scenes from Italy are deeply disturbing that has become the new epicenter of corona pandemic. According to a report last Monday, the obituary page of a local newspaper had increased tenfold in a week, listing up to 150 deaths daily! More disturbing is the fact that “death and mourning happen in isolation”.

Our readings this Sunday speak a lot about death symbolized by graves.

But not on a morbid sense like a defeat or a loss; rather, as a victory, a raising to new life!

Thus says the Lord God: O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them, and bring you back to the land of Israel. Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and have you rise from them, O my people! I will put my spirit in you that you may live.

Ezekiel 37:12-14

Ezekiel proclaimed these words of the Lord to the Israelites during their Babylonian Exile when they lost everything and everyone, including God as they thought have forsaken them for their sinfulness. This prophecy is finally fulfilled in Christ’s coming and victory over death on Easter.

In calling back Lazarus to life, Jesus shows us in this scene his tremendous power over death and defeat, agony and pain, sin and evil. It is a prefiguration to a grander scale of his own Resurrection on Easter after the Good Friday.

And when he had said this, he cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and his face was wrapped in cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”

John 11:43-44
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News. Used with permission. Seen here from atop the GMA Network Center in QC is Mt. Samat in Bataan with the Memorial Cross visible, across the Manila Bay, taken on 26 March 2020.

Do you believe this?

Jesus is calling us to have faith in him, to believe in him especially in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. And like his question to Martha which he repeated twice, the Lord is asking us the same question today:

Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

John 11:25-26

Do you believe in him, Jesus the Christ?

Good things have also been happening lately in this two-week old lockdown.

Families are again getting together, staying together. Finally we now have more time than ever to converse once again as husband and wife, children and parents, brothers and sisters.

Some people have rediscovered God and are back to praying again, to believing again.

Even Mother Nature is said to have taken a big break during this lockdown, giving us spectacular views never seen before due to cleaner air, less pollution and congestion in the cities.

These are all conversations going on – thanks to COVID-19!

Let us join the conversations with our loved ones, with nature, with our self, and with God.

Below is one of my favorite photos this week taken by GMA-7 reporter Mr. Raffy Tima. Again, another photo conversing with us, like Jesus in the story of the raising to life of Lazarus.

See the Memorial Cross on Mt. Samat in Bataan?

The raising of Lazarus is the “sign” or miracle as the other evangelists would say, that prefigures the definitive victory of Jesus on the cross.

Like the sisters of Lazarus, believe in Jesus who is awakening us today amid the threats or crosses of corona virus to bear all these sufferings, to passover like him to the life that bodily death cannot touch “through his Spirit dwelling in us” (Rom. 8:11). Amen.

That “Eureka!” moment of life – and death

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe for the Soul

Homily at the Funeral of Archimedes Lazaro (ICS ’97), 18 February 2020

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< Luke 7:11-17

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Soon afterward Jesus journeyed to a city called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd accompanied him. As he drew near to the gate of the city, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, he was moved with pity for her and said to her, “Do not weep.” He stepped forward and touched the coffin; at this the bearers halted, and he said, “Young man, I tell you, arise!” The dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, exclaiming, “A great prophet has arisen in our midst,” and “God has visited his people.”

Luke 7:11-16

Today, we are like at the city of Nain. Traffic is so heavy outside as many of us – family and friends, former classmates, colleagues at work from all over and neighbors – gather to pray and pay our last respects for Archie.

Celebrating a funeral Mass for a young person is always difficult for me. Like Jesus, I feel so sad for their parents. Normally, it is the children who bury their parents. It must be so painful for parents burying a son or a daughter. That is why in our gospel, Jesus was “moved with pity” with the widow of Nain.

But today, amid the pains and sorrows with the sudden death of Archie last week at a very young age, we actually celebrate life in Jesus Christ.

Photo by author of the hills of Galilee from the Walls of Jerusalem, May 2017.

Jesus comes to visit us always

Like in that scene at Nain, we remember and celebrate the life of Archie who had come to visit us even for a short time.

I love that part of the gospel where the people at Nain exclaimed at how “God has visited his people” when Jesus raised the dead young man.

Jesus continues to visit us everyday through one another like Archie.

Despite his many sins and imperfections, Archie made us experience Jesus Christ’s love and friendship, warmth and kindness, especially to his two sons, family, and friends.

Surely, Jesus must have visited Archie, too, during those dark moments of his life.

And the good news is, Archie visited Jesus so often especially these last two years when he started to pick up the pieces of his life.

Last time I saw Archie was last November when he came to celebrate Mass in our Parish. And I have heard how he had sought spiritual guidance from Fr. Carl, driving that far to Paco every month as he renewed his relationship with Christ, trying to follow anew the Lord he had served since elementary as a sacristan and later as a seminarian in our high school seminary.

It is Jesus who first finds us always

Photo by author at Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, Baguio, 04 February 2020.

We all know Archie’s tocayo is one of ancient Greece’s great scientist and inventor, Archimedes.

It is said that he discovered the principle of buoyancy – the “Archimedes’ principle” – while taking a bath.

When Archimedes sat onto his bathtub, he observed that “when a body is submerged in a fluid, it experiences an apparent loss in weight that is equal to the weight of fluid displaced by the immersed body.”

Archimedes was so ecstatic with his accidental discovery that he jumped naked from his bathtub out to the streets, shouting “eureka!” or “I have found” the solution to a problem he was trying to solve at that time.

Archimedes had not only enriched the field of mathematics and sciences with his discoveries but also the English language with the word “eureka” or “eureka moment”: when somebody discovers something very significant in business and economics, the sciences especially medicine, and practically in every field and subject.

Most especially in life.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, Baguio, 04 February 2020.

Archie had the same eureka moment in life: he had found Jesus Christ again that he went back to Mass and Confessions.

He had found meaning in life again after losing hope and directions.

Most of all, Archie had found love again.

Like his namesake of ancient Greece, Archie is now exclaiming “eureka” ecstatically into heaven – naked – with nothing but the love and mercy of Jesus Christ who first found him and brought him back to life a few years ago.

Today as we bring the remains of Archie into his final resting place, we thank God who never stops looking for us, finding us so that we can find him again and finally rest in him.

Today it is Jesus who is most ecstatic of all because he is the first to have found Archie and that is why, he had called him back to him, never to get lost again.

But the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace. In the time of their visitation they shall shine.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-3, 7

Amen.

In life and in death, one commission

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Thursday, Memorial of St. Pedro Bautista and companion priest-martyrs, Week 4, Year 2, 06 February 2020

1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< Mark 6:7-13

Our merciful God and Father, on this memorial of your great priest-missionaries and martyrs – St. Pedro Bautista, St. Paul Miki and companions who have also worked in the Philippines – we pray today in a very special way for our dearly beloved mentor and brother priest, the Rev. Fr. Danny Bermudo.

We are not complaining, Lord, but year 2020 is a very tough year for many of us, right into January that continues to this month of February with many deaths and sickness, problems and trials not only in our own circles of family and friends but also in our country and the whole world in general.

We trust in you, O God, and can clearly see now in your readings especially that essentially, in life and in death, we are commissioned only to one thing — be faithful to you and your instructions, Lord.

While nearing his death, King David perfectly said it to his son and heir to the throne, Solomon:

“I am going the way of all flesh. Take courage and be a man. Keep the mandate of the Lord, your God, following his ways and observing his statutes, commands, ordinances, and decrees as they are written in the law of Moses, that you may succeed in whatever you do, wherever you turn…”

1 Kings 2:2-3

In a similar manner, at the start of his ministry, Jesus said the same thing while sending the Twelve two by two with authority over unclean spirits: leave everything behind in life and solely be focused on you, Lord, so we may fulfill your work and mission.

Photo by author, 2019.

Thank you, O God, for the gift of Fr. Danny who taught us in his classes and most especially in his personal way of being our seminary formator to always be faithful to you and your laws; to always be good and holy like you, our Heavenly Father.

In words and in deeds, in life and in death, Fr. Danny lived out his life totally for you, Lord, dying after fulfilling his mission and ministry of celebrating the Eucharist.

Bless Fr. Danny, O Lord, and may we carry on his lessons until our death like him. Amen.

Our “Nunc Dimittis” experience

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 03 February 2020

Detail of the Presentation painting by Italian artist Andrea Mantegna (1431-1506) with Mary handing the Child Jesus to Simeon at the temple of Jerusalem (man at the middle Mary’s husband, Joseph).

As we come to close today’s Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, I wish to share with you a Quiet Storm brewing within me which I call “the Nunc Dimittis experience”.

Nunc dimittis is the Latin opening line of Simeon’s Canticle that says “Now you dismiss” when he was filled with joy by the Holy Spirit upon meeting our Lord and Savior on his presentation at the temple.

According to St. Luke’s account, God had promised Simeon that “he would not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord” (Lk. 2:26). Hence, the overflowing joy of Simeon when he finally met the Child Jesus at the temple 40 days after Christmas!

Part of St. Luke’s artistry in his Christmas story is to put songs on the lips of some of its important characters to express their profound joys in their unique experiences of the coming of Christ.

The Nunc Dimittis is the fourth canticle in the Lucan Christmas story: first is Mary’s Magnificat when she visited her cousin Elizabeth who was six months pregnant with St. John the Baptizer; second is the Benedictus by Zechariah when he regained his speech after naming his son John; and third is the Gloria sang by the angels when Christ was born in Bethlehem.

Simeon bursting in joy as depicted by American illustrator Ron DiCianni’s “Simeon’s Moment”. From http://www.tapestryproductions.com

Of these four canticles recorded by St. Luke, Simeon’s Nunc Dimittis sounds the highest level of all, the fulfillment of time within each one of us when we personally recognize and meet Jesus the Christ our Savior like Simeon.

And so often, when we are overjoyed in experiencing Jesus Christ, that is also when we feel like saying “now I am ready to go, ready to die” exactly like Simeon because we have met the Lord.

That is why I call it “the Nunc Dimittis experience”: real joy can only come from that experience and intimacy with Jesus Christ, when we feel so close with him. It does not really matter whether we experience him here in this life or hereafter. What matters most is we feel so close with him, as if embracing him, here and now.

This may be a religious experience like after listening to a homily that really touched us, or after a good confession, or while attending a wonderful retreat or recollection. It may also happen when we feel so loved and accepted, when we are vindicated, or when assured of support and trust and confidence while going through difficult trials in life.

Our Nunc dimittis experience always comes at the end of each day, when we feel despite our failures and shortcomings, we are in God’s loving presence.

Simeon’s Canticle, our Night Prayer

Since the early sixth century during the time of St. Benedict, the “Nunc Dimittis” has been sung in the monks’ night prayer or “compline” from the Latin completorium or completion of the working day. Eventually, it was adopted into the Liturgy of the Hours or the prayers of the Church usually recited by priests and religious. (St. John Paul II had suggested in his encyclical Novo Millennio Innuete after the Great Jubilee of 2000 that the lay faithful also pray the Liturgy of the Hours.)

After the praying of the psalms and meditation of the Sacred Scriptures, there is a Responsory that declares, “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.” Like Jesus before he died on the Cross, we offer to God our very selves. This is takes on a beautiful dimension especially if we have done a good examination of conscience at the start of the compline, before the psalms and readings.

Then, we recite the antiphon that introduces the Nunc dimittis: “Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.”

The antiphon in itself is already a prayer!

It is after the antiphon that we chant or recite Simeon’s Canticle:

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared in the sight of every people: a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.

From the Compline of the Breviary

The antiphon is repeated and immediately followed by the Closing Prayer.

The cross atop our parish church at night with the moon above taken with my iPhone camera, 02 February 2020.

Capping the compline is the blessing at the end that says: “May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death. Amen.”

Usually, a hymn to Mary is sung, then all the lights are turned off and the great silence (magnum silencium) begins until the morning prayers or lauds (Latin for praise).

See how our night prayer or the compline is oriented towards meeting God, or to put it bluntly, towards death.

Yes, it is always easy to say we are ready to die. It is a lot whole different when we are already face to face with death itself.

But, when we come to think of it, we realize that indeed, in death, “there is nothing to fear but fear itself”.

When we die, everything happens so fast. We may not even feel anything at all. And unknown to us, every night when we go to sleep, we rehearse our death, so to speak!

And what a tremendous joy to keep in mind how every night, the Lord fills us with joy and faith within us even if we often forget him. Every night when we sleep, it is automatic within us to entrust everything to God “unconsciously” without even thinking we may never wake up!

It is a “Nunc Dimittis” experience too because most of us go to bed filled with joy, full of hope the following morning would be a better day than today. And that is Jesus still coming to us at the end of the day to assure us of his love and concern, never bothering us at all of this tremendous grace gratuitously given to us.

Next time you sleep, remember how blessed you are to have come to the end of another day, blessed and loved.

Pray, and start experiencing Jesus more from the beginning to the end of each day and forevermore. Amen.

How much do you love?

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul

Week XXXIII-C, 17 November 2019

Malaci 3:19-20 ><}}}*> 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12 ><}}}*> Luke 21:5-19

The Wailing Wall of Jerusalem Temple, May 2019.

We are now at the penultimate Sunday of the year as Jesus continues to summarize his teachings today at the Temple area in Jerusalem about his final coming at the end of time.

While some people were speaking about how the temple was adorned with costly stones and votive offerings, Jesus said, “All that you see here — the days will come when there will not be left a stone upon another stone that will not be thrown down.” Then they asked him, “Teacher, when will this happen? And what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?” He answered, “See that you not be deceived… “

Luke 21:5-8

On the surface, Jesus seemed like to be a “kill joy” in making those bold assertions about the coming destruction of the Temple while everybody was admiring it. But notice how the people reacted: instead of being worried, they asked when it would happen and what would be the warning signs before it takes place as if it is just an ordinary thing!

“Wala lang…” as the young would say these days. Nothing, duh…?

View of Jerusalem from the Church of Dominus Flevit where Jesus wept upon seeing the city from the Mount of Olives.

St. Luke tells us that before Jesus entered Jerusalem, “he wept over it” at the thought that it would be destroyed and that its enemies would not “leave one stone upon another” (Lk.19: 41-44).

If there is anyone deeply hurt and saddened with the Temple’s destruction, it is not other than Jesus Christ our Lord. He certainly shared the people’s admiration for the Temple which he had also claimed as “my Father’s house” (Lk.2:49) when he was accidentally left behind there by Mary and Joseph when he was 12 years old.

Imagine what Jesus must have felt when he spoke of the destruction of the Temple which is the heart of Jerusalem, the jewel of the city, and most of all, the sign of God’s presence among his chosen people!

There must be something deeper with his warning words of the Temple’s destruction that pertains not only to his people at that time but also to us today.

Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, may 2019.

For the Jews at that time, the destruction of the Temple is the end of the world, the signal of the apocalypse. More than a catastrophe involving the destruction of buildings and almost everything including life, it is judgment day that must not be taken lightly.

It is a day calling for conversion as the prophet Malachi in the first reading reminds us that every coming of God is a day of judgment and salvation.

Lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire… But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays.

Malachi 3:19-20

Christ had already come and will come again.

This was his promise and this is what he meant at the cleansing of the temple, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn.2:19). At his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, Jesus Christ had replaced the old Temple worship with himself!

This is what we celebrate in every Holy Mass, God’s coming to us in Jesus Christ his Son.

Jesus comes in every here and now, and his every coming is a process of destroying our old temple of self to give rise to a new temple in Christ. Our concern need not be about a future date of his Second Coming or specific signs of its fulfillment.

Every day Jesus comes again and the challenge is for us to live authentically as Christians daily and not be bothered about the future. He warns us not to be deceived by all of these apocalyptic predictions and statements.

The key word is conversion, of living in the present. Jesus tells us so many things that can be very frightening and scary because what he wants us to do in preparation for his Second Coming is to love, love, and love.

And to love is to always suffer in Christ, with Christ.

He answered, “See that you not be deceived, for many will come in in my name… Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky. Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you… You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair of on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Luke 21:8-19
From I.REDD.IT.

Yes, Jesus will definitely come again at the end of time. Like last Sunday, definitely, there is a resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. But both must be seen in the context of the present time, of the here and now.

When Jesus comes again to judge us at the end of time, he won’t be asking us about the things we have been so preoccupied with in this life like how much money we earn, what car do you drive, or how big is your house?

When Jesus comes again, he will be asking us questions we have always refused to answer in our daily lives like how much have you loved, how much have you sacrificed and suffered for a loved one, or how much have you shared to a stranger?

These are the questions we must be asking ourselves as we near towards the end of the year: how close have I followed Jesus Christ in his Passion and Death so I may be with him in his Resurrection?

May we imitate St. Paul in his second letter to the Thessalonians today to faithfully and calmly fulfill our daily tasks in this life, avoiding being idle for each day is the day of the Lord. Amen.