God is the reason

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 31 July 2022
Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21-23 ><}}}*> Colossians 3:1-5, 9-11 ><}}}*> Luke 12:13-21
My former parish, photo by Mr. Gelo Nicolas Carpio, January 2020.

Last Friday I officiated at the funeral Mass of a younger first cousin; a week earlier, I had anointed him with Oil for the Sick with general absolution of his sins, commending him to God as he was afflicted with a rare disease that attacks the autoimmune system.

It is one of the difficult part in our lives as priests, when sickness and death come closest at home considering that fact that I officiated his wedding about 20 years ago and baptized his eldest son now grown up. That is why our readings today are so timely for me because my cousin Gilbert was only 49 when he died, being the most silent and “goodest” of my cousins who never got into any trouble nor any sickness while we were growing up together in Bocaue, Bulacan. How I felt like Qoheleth, saying….

Vanity of vanities, says Qoheleth, vanity of vanities! All things are vanity. Here is one who has labored with wisdom and knowledge and skill and yet another, who has not labored over it, must leave the property. This is also vanity and a great misfortune.

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 2:21
Photo by author, Pangasinan, April 2022.

Qoheleth is what the author calls himself which is not a proper name but a function of a speaker or a preacher to an assembly which is in Latin ecclesia; hence, it is called the Book of Ecclesiastes.

Despite the tone of his message of “vanity of vanities”, the author is not a “kill joy” or KJ who is provoking a culture of pessimism; in fact, he is trying to search for what truly lasts, for the Absolute good who is God. We have seen how in literature and music that poems and songs of despair are often the most beautiful because the anguish we feel can paradoxically be expressions of our burning desire for something, someone more permanent, more lasting and unchanging – who else and nothing else but God who is not vanity!

If we try to own every line of Qoheleth and reflect deeply on it, we somehow feel a strong similarity with our own cries of despair in life when nothing matters anymore especially with the lost of a loved one, or something so precious that deep inside us we felt with certitude that only God could fill that void.

Yes, all is vanity if we are cut off from God, when all our efforts and our very lives are separated from him because he alone is the Reason. Everything, everyone is meaningful because of God. That is why in the second reading, St. Paul is asking us to “seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col.3:1).

In this world where everything is measured in popularity, in being viral or trending that are all vanities because of their temporariness, so many have fallen into the trap of empty promises of modern lifestyles. See how despite the affluence we now enjoy, we have become more empty in life, more alienated from each other even from one’s self, lacking in meaning and depth in life and existence. Sometimes, results can be fatal when people realize what they have been seeing and hearing in media are not at all true and so far from reality that death becomes an escape than a direction that leads us to the Absolutely Perfect, God and eternal life.

Someone in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, tell. my brother to share the inheritance with me.” He replied to him, “Friend, who appointed me as your judge and arbitrator?” Then he said to the crowd, “Take care to guard against all greed, for though one may be rich, one’s life does not consist of possessions.” Then he told them a parable.

Luke 12:13-16
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020.

Like Qoheleth, here we find Jesus acting like a “kill-joy” to the man requesting his help to have his share of the inheritance. His responses seems so abrupt and worst of all, very cold! But, it was not really addressed to the man asking the Lord’s intervention. Notice how Luke tells us Jesus addressing the man as “friend” before turning to the “crowd”.

Jesus is still on his way to Jerusalem and saw another opportunity today to teach the people – the crowd – not just the man asking his help of something of high importance in this life which is of being “rich in what matters to God” (Lk.12:21).

Jesus is just and fair, so loving and merciful, very mindful of our needs; however, in the light of the previous gospel scenes we have reflected, we find that Jesus concerns himself only in what matters to God. He does care about our bodily and material needs that he assures us to not worry so much about these because God will never forsake us.

Jesus had come not to be our judge and arbiter on matters about our material and worldly concerns like getting rich and famous and other vanities in life; Jesus came to teach us about what matters to God like love and mercy, kindness and care, justice and freedom. Jesus came to teach us ways of how we may inherit eternal life!

We do not have to spell out and enumerate one by one these things that matters to God of which Jesus is most concerned with; eventually, as we journey with him in life, as we carry our cross, we realize slowly in life these things that matter to God are for sure not material possessions, most often things that matter after death.

That is the grace we find ironically in every death – when somebody dies, we realize deep inside what truly matters to God. As they say, death is the best equalizer in life. And best teacher.


Last week we have the beautiful series of readings from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, teeming with life and assurances of love and protection from God. We see how the loving hands of God are like of the potter who molds us into fine earthen vessels of his majesty and glory.

Photo by author, March 2019.

Sometimes we sink into so much self-pity when things are not turning out according to our plans in life, forgetting how God loves us so much, of how he uses even the most tragic and painful events in our lives for our own good because he believes in us.

Yes. God believes in you! Everything is vanity without him, without you!

Would you rather spend everything just for a piece of land or some money or level of fame than living in peace, the greatest gift we can all have in life? That is the whole point of God in telling Jeremiah about being a clay in the potter’s hand – many times in our lives we have to be crushed and mashed, even reduced to being grounded for us to emerge finer and refined, better and more beautiful than before.

Recall those trying days of the past when you chose to bear it all, to be silent and patient. Maybe for a while or a few moments our opponents seemed to have won, or have the upper hand but in the long run, we find we are more fruitful, we are more peaceful because everything and everyone has become meaningful in God. That is because we love.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Of all that things that matter with God that we should be rich is love. Love, love, love. As the Beatles said, all you need is love! True. Sometimes it could be foolish to love, to let go of things and insults and pains and hurts.

But, God is greater than our hearts (1 Jn.3:20) and can never be outdone in generosity.

The more we love, the more we are given with more love. That is when we become truly rich in what matters to God. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone!

Light amid darkness: the grace of grieving in Mary Magdalene

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2022
Song of Songs 3:1-4   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 20:1-2. 11-18
Photo from GettyImages/iStockphoto.com
Praise and glory to you,
O Lord Jesus Christ in giving
us today this Feast of St. Mary
Magdalene, the "apostle of the
apostles" who proclaimed to Peter
and company that you have risen
on that Easter morning!
Thank you most especially in 
showing us through St. Mary Magdalene
the grace in that state many of us find
ourselves so often especially these days
of the pandemic - that of grieving.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdalene came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb. Mary stayed outside the tomb weeping. And as she wept, she bent over into the tomb and saw two angels in white sitting there, one at the head and one at the feet where the Body of Jesus had been. And they said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken by Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus.

John 20:1, 11-14
Dearest Lord Jesus,
I pray for those weeping, 
for those grieving for the lost
of a beloved wife or husband,
a son or a daughter, a brother or
a sister, a friend or a colleague;
I also pray, Jesus, for those 
who are weeping in silence,
fighting their tears, hiding when
they cry as they attend and care 
for a dying loved one at home or
in the hospital.
Like St. Mary Magdalene, death
from its approach and coming
always has that dark presence in
us; mourning and weeping become
more difficult when nights become
longer we could hardly know morning
is coming or has broken.
And many times in those dark moments
we do not recognize you, Jesus, 
present among us in our weeping,
right in our grieving for our loved ones.
Open our eyes, open our hearts,
enkindle our faith and hopes in you, Lord
in these long, dark hours of our grieving.
You know very well how difficult it is
to let go of a loved one like St. Mary Magdalene
when you have died; like her, we continue
to "cling" and "hold" to our beloved 
in our old ways of relating with them 
in the hope of again hugging them,
touching them, and perhaps telling them 
how we love them and if given a chance,
to say sorry too for our sins and lapses.
“Noli me tangere” (touch me not) fresco in the Lower Basilica of St. Francis Assisi Church in Italy painted by Giotto de Bondone in the 13th century from commons.wikimedia.org.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” Mary of Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord,” and then reported what he told her.

John 20:16-18
Call us with our name again,
dear Jesus; call us anew with your
reassuring voice of love and kindness,
of mercy and forgiveness no matter
who we really are 
for you are the only one sent by the Father 
to assure us we are accepted despite and
in spite of our sins and weaknesses.
Let us exclaim again "Rabbouni" like
St. Mary Magdalene, filled with joy in
finding you amidst the darkness 
in our lives as we learn to stop "holding"
on to our departed and dying loved ones
as we recall and realize your teaching 
that every death is a sharing in your pasch,
a passing over into eternal life,
of leveling up our ties with them 
in you, Christ Jesus
to the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Amen.
Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, November 2018.

The Cross looming at Bethlehem

The Lord Is My Chef Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
A Funeral Homily, 29 December 2021
Photo by author, Basic Education Department chapel, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 24 December 2021.

The Christmas liturgy offers us valuable lessons about life, of essentially the meaning of Christ’s coming into the world: He did not remove death and suffering but instead came to suffer and die with us so we may rise with him to eternal life.

Looming over the Nativity scene at Bethlehem is the Cross of the Calvary as we immediately see (except this year) the following day after Christmas on December 26 when we celebrate the feast of the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen and again on the 28th when we wear red vestments during the Mass for the feast of the Holy Innocents massacred by Herod after being duped by the Magi.

These lessons of our Christmas liturgy become more real, even surreal for some, when there is death happening during this most joyous season of the year.

On this fifth day in the octave of Christmas, we heard from the gospel of Luke the story of the Presentation of the Child Jesus at the temple met by two elderly people promised by God to see the Christ before dying, Simeon and Anna.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Christ of the Lord. He came in the Spirit into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law in regard to him, he took him into his arms and blessed God, saying: “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel.”

Luke 2:25-32

What a matter-of-fact story this Christmas of awaiting death, awaiting Christ’s coming!

What a beautiful scene reminding us of the realities of life and of death, coexisting side by side.

“Presentation at the Temple” painting by Italian Renaissance artist Andrea Mantegna done around 1455; Mary holding Baby Jesus while St. Joseph at the middle looks on the bearded Simeon. Photo from wikipedia.org.

Life is like our two hands, the left and the right, always with ironies and paradoxes: life and death, light and darkness, joy and sorrow, triumph and defeat, gains and losses.

That is how life is wonderfully portrayed today by Simeon who held in his arms the Child Jesus, filled with joy, basking in the sacred moment with the Savior, and the words that came from his mouth was about dying: “Lord, now you let your servant go in peace; your word has been fulfilled: my own eyes have seen the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people.”

That is the “moment of Christmas” we mentioned last Saturday: “Christmas is therefore a blessed event, a most sacred moment of holy communion of man and God in Jesus Christ that continues to this day in the most regular yet miraculous reality of life going on amid many joys and pains, victory and defeats, prosperity and poverty, health and sickness, light and darkness and even in death” (https://lordmychef.com/2021/12/24/rejoicing-christmas-moments-all-year-through/).

Simeon shows us that it is only when we have fully appreciated this life we have in God do we fully accept and welcome death which is eternal union with God. Coming to terms with life is coming to terms with death and the same holds true vice-versa. That is why like Simeon we have to strive to live attuned to the Holy Spirit always to be aware of those sacred moments when Jesus comes to us in our daily living.

Photo by author, 18 November 2021.

I know, these are easier said than done… and, yes, it is doubly painful when our loved ones leave us during this Christmas season but when we try to reflect on it deeply, we find it more meaningful.

Ten years ago I met a family in my previous parish who have come to gather for 41 years every Christmas since their mother passed away on Christmas day. They told me how they were celebrating Mass on a bright sunny Christmas day when they have to immediately leave to rush to the hospital where their mother had died after a lingering illness. It was then I learned that their mother was born on March 24, the eve of the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus; that’s when I told them of how blessed they must be: their mother was born on the date we celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God while she entered eternal life on the date we celebrate Jesus came to earth! They loved the imagery I have shown them and from then on until now, I have been invited to their family reunions….

That is the main blessing of Christ’s coming here on earth: he sanctified death that before was a curse. Recall how we have mentioned that Jesus Christ’s Pasch actually began at Christmas, when he passed over from heaven to earth, from eternal to temporal which reached its highest point in his Passion, Death and Resurrection that led to our salvation.

Photo by author, Basic Education Department chapel, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City, 24 December 2021.

When the pandemic came last year, everybody laughed at the year 2020 with all kinds of memes and jokes, describing the year supposed to signify “perfect vision” as the worst and most disastrous. It was labelled so bad and almost cursed that everybody eagerly awaited 2021. Now, the jokes and memes are back, calling 2022 sounds like “2020 too”, insinuating another round of disasters as COVID surges happen in Europe and the States.

But, that is life.

As we have said at the start, it is like our two hands, the left and the right. There is always life and death, light and darkness, joy and sadness. That is why Jesus came and from then on we have reckoned time to his birth because every year is an Anno Domini, the year of the Lord.

Whenever we put our hands together at prayer, life and death becomes one along with joy and sorrow, light and darkness in Jesus Christ who gives meaning and fulfillment in everything.

Handle life with prayer. God bless you all!

On living and courage

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 21 July 2021
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

A former classmate and friend from elementary school suddenly died of a heart attack last week. At his wake, everybody was saying of how they wish to die ahead of everybody just like Larry. “Mas gusto ko ako yung mauna” was the trending line of everyone’s conversation that there seemed a surge in courage with everyone bravely claiming readiness to die.

For me, it was like a déjà vu when suddenly it flashed to my mind our school discussions how we would prefer to die first than our parents. As kids, we were so afraid of living without parents that we deemed it better to be the first ones to die.

But, it did not mean we were not afraid of death nor of dying nor of living, too. We were just kids then.

Now that we have passed the half century mark of living, fast approaching the senior age, I think we know better the realities of life.

And of death.

On the surface, it seems that facing death and dying require super graces especially courage as we go into the threshold of the great unknown. But on deeper reflections, we realize that in dying, it could be really true that we have nothing to fear but fear itself because when we die, we don’t feel it anymore and would not even know it at all!

Death and dying can easily come to our minds when we are so hard pressed in life, when sufferings and pains are so unbearable that death wrongly becomes an escape, a cowardice than a courage no matter how hard others would romanticize it.


Yes, it takes a lot of courage to accept and face death 
but much more courage is needed to live than to die.

Yes, it takes a lot of courage to accept and face death but much more courage is needed to live than to die.

Living is different because it is filled with paradoxes unlike death that is clearly “the end” and the start of the great unknown, with or without God.

But for us believers, for those with faith in God, living in itself is already a tremendous grace to overcome all fears and difficulties of being alive than being dead.

More than ten years ago, I lost my best friend from high school to cancer. When he was first diagnosed, he cried a lot whenever we would visit him, clearly indicating his fears of dying. Six months after receiving intensive treatment from one of the best hospitals in the country, Gil finally accepted the inevitable after his doctors said his cancer cells were “so aggressive”.

On that final week of his life, I visited him thrice when I noticed a marked change in Gil as he would no longer cry, looking so calm and serene, so composed even in his manner of speaking. This time, I was the one who cried a lot whenever he spoke to me of his “habilin” or reminders upon his death. That is when I realized how God gives the courage needed to face death once the dying accepts it and surrenders one’s self to Him our Maker. That is when death becomes peaceful and a blessing too when the dying is able to make peace with everybody and with God almighty.

Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, June 2021.

When somebody dies, we cry not only because of the pain of separation. Deep inside us is the fear of living alone without them. That is why we need more courage to live than to die because when you die, you do not feel anymore.

The pain of death is more felt by those living than by those dying, especially those blessed to have prepared for it like my friend Gil as they already knew where they were going while those left behind are still at a loss for directions in life.

Living, facing life’s challenges requires tough courage. Real courage.

Our drive or will to live and survive shows the great amount of courage and strength we muster from deep within we never knew we even have at all! That is why after hurdling every challenge we faced in life, we wonder how we did it, how we made it.

From Facebook, May 2020.

That’s because of courage.

Congratulate yourself! You are good. You are doing well.

Those bruises and scars are badges of courage, medals of valor in fighting, in living this life that prepares us to fullness in heaven with God.

For as long as you feel pains and sufferings, hardships and difficulties… you are alive! Rejoice and celebrate life! Make the most of it. You can surely make it because you are alive.

And there lies the beauty and greatness of life – we are enormously blessed to be alive, blessed with courage to go on living because we are meant for something. We have a mission. Do not lose sight of that immense blessing.

When Jesus faced his death, it was not cowardice but courage because his dying was meant to lead us all to living fully in him. Jesus is life himself when he said “I am the resurrection and life” (John 11:25).

On the Cross, Jesus showed us the realities of life- of joys and pains, of sickness and health, of poverty and wealth, of light and darkness, most of all, of life and death in our daily dying to old self and rising to new life.

On the Cross, Jesus showed us that life is living in courage that comes from him to be like him: standing for what is true and good, for what is just and fair, and most of all, for loving another more than one’s self!


"The real test of courage is in living, not in dying", 
according to the the Italian playwright 
and poet Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803).  

“The real test of courage is in living, not in dying”, according to the the Italian playwright and poet Vittorio Alfieri (1749-1803).

Stop wishing and praying for death for it will surely come.

At the moment, activate that courage in you and start living life to the fullest.

Coming to terms with death is coming to terms with life and vice-versa. For us to have the courage to face death when that time comes means to have the courage first of all in living. It is a grace always in our heart which is in Latin called “cor”, the root of the word courage itself, meaning “coming from the heart”.

Have the heart – and courage to see and experience the many joys and beauty of life waiting for you! Don’t miss them.

Photo from intentionalinspirations.com

Lent is “seeing” Jesus

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-B, 21 March 2021
Jeremiah 31:31-34  +  Hebrews 5:7-9  +  John 12:20-33
Photo by author, details of the Seventh Station of the Cross at the St. Ildephonse Parish Church in Tanay, Rizal, January 2021.

In the beautiful church of the town of Tanay in Rizal is found a most unique Seventh Station of the Cross where one of those depicted when Jesus fell for the second time is a man with dark glasses looking afar. Local residents say the man with sunglasses is Caiaphas, the chief priest during the time of Jesus who led the Sanhedrin at his trial leading to his crucifixion.

Nobody can explain exactly why the artist portrayed that man wore sunglasses that was popular among people of stature and position in the country when the carving was made in 1785. Also interesting aside from the man in shades are the soldiers with him shown with Malay features of brown color and wide eyes opened, all looking somewhere except for one looking at the Lord while clutching his garment as he fell looking heavenwards.

I remembered this piece of work of art inside the Tanay Parish Church declared by the National Museum as “National Cultural Treasure” because our gospel today speaks about a request by some pagans to see Jesus. Seeing has many meanings, always leading to believing. And sometimes, it is in believing we are able to see most of all!

Some Greeks who had come to worship at the Passover Feast came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then andfrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life.”

John 12:20-25

Seeing to believe

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, Infanta, Quezon 2020.

As we have been mentioning three Sundays ago, the fourth gospel uses poetic expressions and symbolisms to convey deeper truths and realities about Jesus and our very selves, our having or lacking faith in God. Like the act of seeing by those Greeks who requested Philip “to see Jesus”.

If they simply wanted to catch a glimpse of Jesus, they could have easily seen the Lord who was always at the temple area at that time. Jesus had always been available to everyone like last Sunday when Nicodemus went to see him at night.

But, John often used the verb to see in many senses that also mean to believe like in his appearance a week after Easter to his disciples along with doubting Thomas: Jesus said to him “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (Jn.20:29).

Most mysterious for me in John’s use of the verb to see is in the call of the Lord’s first disciples led by Andrew: He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went where he was staying and saw where he was staying… Andrew followed Jesus. He first found his brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (Jn.1:39-41).

What did Andrew see that he later told his brother Simon that they have found the Messiah?

Of course, John’s most notable use of the verb to see is from that scene at the empty tomb on Easter Sunday when the perfect model of the believer is the “other disciple” whom Jesus loved “went in, and he saw and believed” (Jn.20:8).

Very clear in the mind of John that the request of those Greeks to see Jesus was one of faith, of meeting and speaking with Jesus to be enlightened more like Nicodemus last Sunday. Here we find our important role of being another Philip and Andrew, leading other people to see Jesus.

Those Greeks described as “God-fearing” were pagans attracted to the teachings of Judaism and came to Jerusalem to observe the Passover Feast. They already have faith in God that must have been awakened further when they heard the teachings of Jesus; hence, their request to see Jesus.

It happens so often that when by the grace of God people are illuminated with faith even in the most personal manner, they still need Philips and Andrews who would enable them “to see” Jesus to grow and be deepened in faith. There will always be a need for an apostle who could lead others to “see” Jesus because faith happens within a community, within the Church and through others’ mediation.

And here lies the bigger challenge for us disciples for us to make Jesus “seen” in our lives and in our community.

Believing to see.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just as a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.

John 12:23-26, 32-33

In a sudden twist, John tells us nothing if those “God-fearing” pagans saw Jesus at all because the Lord immediately went on a discourse after being told by Andrew and Philip of the request, briefly interrupted by God’s voice speaking from heaven that everybody heard in the temple area.

Speaking in the parable of the grain of wheat dying first in order to produce much fruit, Jesus tells us how we can lead others to truly see him in us and through us by having the same determination and perseverance to follow him, stay with him, and be like him by dying to ones self for others. For the grain of wheat to die and spring forth to new life, it has to be detached. And so are we.

Notice Jesus repeating that sign of his being lifted up on the cross he mentioned last Sunday to Nicodemus. John mentions it again in this part of his gospel adding an explanation at the end because for him, the Crucifixion is Christ’s greatest sign and revelation of his glory, opening a path for us back to God in his Cross, through his Cross.

In teaching us about the parable of the grain of wheat dying and linking it with his being “lifted up”, Jesus now tells us and every “God-fearing” person that we can only “see” him in the scandal of the Cross.

Did those God-fearing Greeks remained in Jerusalem and saw Jesus on the Cross?

We do not know but we are sure that anyone who requests to see Jesus always sees him if we believe first in his crucifixion which is when everyone is drawn to him as he had said. We must first believe Christ died so we may see him risen to life.

It was on Christ’s dying on the cross when God established a “new covenant” among us as prophesied by Jeremiah in our first reading today, giving us all an access to him in Jesus, through Jesus, with Jesus which we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Photo by author, 2020.

Grappling with death to see life

We have never seen the crucifixion of Jesus except in its portrayals in the many movies we used to watch in Holy Week; but, its realities are etched and impressed in our hearts through the many trials and difficulties we have gone through in life that we believe Jesus truly died. And because of that, we have also seen him alive!

Such is the reality of seeing Jesus that every time we describe something so difficult, so trying, we equate it with death like when we say “we felt like dying” taking the exam. And the good news is when we overcome the tests that we use again the word or concept of death to describe something so good as it leads us to glory like when we say a pizza or a steak or a cake to die for.

Such is the paradox and scandal of the Cross of Jesus: we can never see him risen in glory if we avoid and refuse seeing his Passion and Death right in our own selves, in our painful experiences.

Going back to that unique Seventh Station of the Cross at the Tanay Parish Church, I realized how the unbelievers and others among us could not see Jesus as the Christ because they have refused to believe in him first especially when they are down with all kinds of problems and trials, looking somewhere else instead of seeing Jesus fallen in front of them.

Let us believe in Jesus so we may see him in this final week of Lent as we prepare for Palm Sunday next. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by author, January 2021.

“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.