Test all spirits

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday after Epiphay, 04 January 2021
1 John 3:22-4:6     >><)))*>  +  <*(((><<     Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25
Photo by author, Lake of Galilee from the side of Capernaum in Israel, 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father on this first day of resumption of work and school. Many of us are so eager to go back to work and studies, hoping to make a good start for new year 2021. And your words today are so helpful to us all.

Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God.

1 John 4:1-3

In this age with an overload of information and influences from media, so many of us are led astray Lord because we have always forgotten to test all spirits that compete for our attention.

Give us the wisdom, Lord, as well as the perseverance and discipline to test all spirits, to discern them in silence and prayers that we may not be misled by false teachings and false hopes.

Open our eyes and our hearts in order to find you coming to us even in the most simplest occasions in our lives or in the most difficult situations we are into. Like the magi, may we have that keen sense of interest in observing things from the most usual to the unusual ones.

And let us start this discernment of spirits by first cleansing ourselves of our sins and impurities as we heed your call to “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Mt.4:17).

As we continue to retell and relive the story of Christmas, may we be like the town of Capernaum ready to welcome Christ’s coming with his light to dispel all darkness caused by our sins, frustrations and disappointments, pains and hurts especially from the past year so we may move forward through personal conversion in our Lord. Amen.

The temple in our hearts

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest, 31 July 2020
Jeremiah 26:1-9 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

Praise and glory to you, O God our Father for another week and month about to close before us. And still here we are, alive and safe, making through the many trials and difficulties as we all continue to bear the sufferings of this COVID-19 pandemic.

Thank you for sending us your Son our Lord Jesus Christ who have made our hearts your indwelling.

Unfortunately, like his neighbors, so many times we fail or even refuse to recognize his coming to us.

Jesus came to his native place and taught the people in their synagogue. They were astonished and said, “Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds? Is he not the carpenter’s son?” And they took offense at him.

Matthew 13:54-55, 57

So many times, many things run in our minds and in our hearts that we always fail to see and recognize you, sweet Jesus.

Teach us through St. Ignatius your faithful servant who gave us your wonderful gift of discerning the spirits.

Teach us to lay bare ourselves before you, to be true to our thoughts and feelings so that we may sift through all of these to find your holy will, Lord.

Teach us to “omit nothing” as you commanded Jeremiah in the first reading from your words so that we may be able to discern properly what you want from us.

Make our hearts your temple, O Lord, dwell inside and reign over us so that we may understand fully the meaning of “positive indifference” taught us by St. Ignatius:

“We should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short life. . . . Our one desire and choice should be what is more conducive to the end for which we are created.”

Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius

Let our thoughts and actions always begin and happily end in your greater glory, Lord.

Amen.

St. Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us!

Journeying into God in parables

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVI, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2020
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 >><}}}*> Romans 8:26-27 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:24-43

Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us today to join him into a different kind of journey that would take us deep into God’s mystery in our very selves through the parables he has started to tell us last Sunday.

Recall, dear readers, that parables constitute the heart of the Lord’s preaching.

We have defined these as simple stories with deep realities that must be cracked open through prayers and reflections to get its meaning. From the French para bolein that literally means “along the path”, a parable is likewise a bridge that leads us into something unknown to us before.

In itself, a parable is a journey calling us to walk through it into our inner selves to discover the many inner beauties that lie within us but we take for granted. Ultimately, as we discover these giftedness within us, we then uncover God dwelling within us.

This is the reason why Jesus would always tell his audience after narrating his parables that “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt.13:43) to insist on them to go deeper inside themselves for their meaning.

And that is when we are transformed, when our lives are changed into true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Greatness in littleness

First thing we notice in the three parables of Jesus today is his insistence on the coming of the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God through him as the mysterious seed.

This kingdom of heaven is used interchangeably with “kingdom of God” that Jesus would always speak of in his entire ministry until his crucifixion is not according to our understanding of a kingdom: it is not about a territorial domain or the exercise of power over subjects using force.

St. John Paul the Second expressed it beautifully by declaring the person of Jesus Christ himself is the kingdom of God. No wonder, Christ would always liken himself and the kingdom of God with the seed being sown.

It is always good. It is for everyone as the sower scatters the seeds everywhere. And it is always small like Jesus who was born like any infant so fragile and even poor like most of us. He is like the seed we take for granted from which comes forth all kinds of plants like trees, big and small.

Flowers of a mustard plant from which seeds are taken. Photo by author, Israel, 2017.

Or most specially, like those seeds that turn into crops of wheat and shrubs like the mustard with leaves and branches where birds may dwell that describe the first two parables today.

Jesus then added a third parable of the yeast mixed into flour that leavened the dough into a bread.

Like him our Lord, we his disciples are also like the small seeds packed with great possibilities in God.

In all these three parables today, there is that element of smallness, of littleness that remind us how everything that is great always starts small.

When we come to think of this, we realize how we embarked on this great mission of making Jesus Christ known: it started like a small spark within us, perhaps from a single word we have heard or read, a simple inspiration by God through the most ordinary persons and situation.

Not only in things regarding our spiritual lives but even our personal lives when we recall those humble beginnings of our family and of our business.

Like a little seed or yeast, they just grew!

Now we are surprised, even amazed, how we have changed, how we have grown. Of how we are now reaping the fruits of our labors and sacrifices.

Most of all, how we have known and experienced Jesus Christ who fulfills our lives.

Weeds among the wheat

But not all days are bright and sunny. There are dark clouds that hover above us bringing storms and heavy rains that lead into floodings. A lot often in life, the darkest nights turn out to be the longest nights too.

And this is the meaning of Christ’s main parable for today.

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seeds in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slave of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Matthew 13:24-30
Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

During my prayer periods this past week, I have been filled with anger and disappointments at how things are going on in our country and even in my personal life. It pains me so much why at this time of the pandemic when we have to go through all these bad things.

Last Friday morning before our daily Mass, we discovered the glasses shattered in our windows near the office door and at the side door of the church. There were scratches outside indicating attempts to unlock the doors inside and steal from the church.

After the Mass, I grew more angry as we inspected the damages, thinking so negatively harsh against whoever tried to burglarize us.

By night time during prayers, I remembered Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables where Valjean was caught by the police stealing silver from the good bishop who had welcomed him into his rectory with food and accommodations. Instead of pinning him down for his crime, the bishop told the police he had given Valjean the silver found in his bag, even chastising him he had left behind the other silver candlesticks he had asked to take!

The wheatfield owner in our parable and the good bishop of Les Miserables are both the merciful God mentioned by the author of the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today:

But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

Wisdom 12:18-19

Think of our parents and elders, our mentors or those we look up to for their wisdom gifted with wonderful insights in life called perspicacity which means “a penetrating discernment… a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight.”

Being perspicacious or having perspicacity like the wheatfield owner or the good bishop of Les Miserable means having a deeper wisdom that one can keenly see and understand things beyond ordinary perception following a long process of silent reflections in life.

Many times, our sights can be limited that we do not see the other repercussions and even ramifications of our decisions on certain situations. There are times we think only of finding solutions, of winning the battle but not the war.

Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

It is also along this line that Jesus added the third parable: the yeast is mixed with the flour to leaven the dough.

We are like the yeast who have to mix with others, including the evil ones to become bread that will feed the world.

We are the wheat, the mustard seed, the yeast thrown into the world to make a difference in Christ! We are not the ones who will change the world but Jesus Christ, the mysterious seed, the yeast in the dough who grows and effects the changes in us and among us.

Parables as inner journey in Christ Jesus

With Jesus living and nurturing within us, that is when we become fruitful like the wheat and mustard plant or leavened bread that we are able to feed more people who would eventually become bearers his in the future. That is how the kingdom of heaven comes into this world, when God is seen and felt by everyone through us

This we achieve in prayers as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading. It is not just reciting our basic prayers as Christians including the novenas we love to collect and follow through. The kind of prayer that St. Paul speaks here is a prayer guided by God’s Holy Spirit who perfectly knows God’s will.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos of kids she’s teaching on the values of health, education and nature at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon.

Brothers and sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

Romans 8:26

In this time of too much weeds among the wheat, of so many evil and sins prevailing over us, we can feel frustrated at times that make it so difficult for us to pray.

Sometimes, the evil and sins, or the plain sufferings we go through in our own family, in our community or at work and in school can be so overwhelming that we feel our prayers are useless, that God is not listening at all to us.

Then we stop praying, we stop journeying within even with weeds among the wheat. How can the flour be leavened if the yeast is not mixed with the dough to become bread or cake.

Remain in the Lord!

Pulling out the weeds will not solve the problem; worst, it may endanger us all too in the process that we become like our enemies in the end. Never lose hope in God who knows very well of the presence and source of weeds. Sometimes, these pains and sufferings from evils we go through from others may actually lead us to our being fruitful!

Evil and sins are a parable in themselves that can teach us so well in life if we handle them with prayers.

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

Praying in the Holy Spirit is when we spend time with Jesus to reflect and crack open his words that come to us in the Sacred Scriptures and ordinary events in daily life through long hours of silent meditation and contemplation.

The more we dive into God’s mysteries in the parables he sends us in daily living, the more we see the beauty and wonder of life because our horizons are widened and get clearer.

Praying into our parables in life is like looking into a telescope or binoculars that enable us to see something distant within reach.

Like God himself.

And salvation as well as fulfillment in Christ.

Amen.

A blessed new week ahead of you!

Losing one’s self in prayer

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Wk. XVII-C, 28 July 2019
Genesis 18:20-32 >< }}}*> Colossians 2:12-14 >< }}}*> Luke 11:1-13

I have always loved this photo by Ms. Jaileen Jimeno or “JJ”, a former colleague at GMA-7 News. JJ told me how on the evening of May 28 she dropped by the Adoration Chapel of the UP Parish of the Holy Sacrifice for a very special intention when she was stunned by this sight of the “headless man” praying in one of the pews. Always a journalist, JJ took this shot with her camera phone and after praying, posted it on her FB with the caption, “losing one’s head in prayer.” I have not talked with her since then but perhaps, her special intention that evening must have been heard by God because her photo itself is essentially a prayer too!

This is what prayer is all about – losing one’s self in God.

Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples.”

Luke 11:1
The Our Father Church outside Jerusalem where Jesus taught his disciples to pray the Our Father, 04 May 2019.

This is the third Sunday in a series of “things to do to gain eternal life” following that conversation by Jesus with a scholar of the law on his way to Jerusalem when he taught us to “love God and love others” by showing compassion to the suffering like the Good Samaritan. Last Sunday during his stopover at the home of Martha and Mary, he taught us that the more we are busy, the more we must pray; and the more we pray, the more we realize of the need to be active. This Sunday, Jesus deepens this lesson about prayer which is also the more essential – “the better part” – as he told Martha that we must do to gain eternal life.

For St. Luke, this episode of Jesus teaching his disciples the Our Father is more than the teaching of a prayer to recite but the attitude itself they must possess in praying.

Of the four evangelists, St. Luke is the one who always present to us Jesus at prayer like at this scene today. Unlike with St. Matthew’s version when Jesus taught the Our Father during his sermon on the mount so that his disciples would know what to pray for instead of multiplying words like the Pharisees and scribes at that time, St. Luke set this teaching in the context of the Lord at prayer to teach us how to pray.

He said to them, “When you pray, say: Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread and forgive us our sins for we ourselves forgive everyone in debt to us, and do not subject us to the final test.”

Luke 11:2-4

Jesus came to make known to everyone God is our Father whose name we must always revere and never take in vain. By dying on the Cross, he revealed the glory of the Father who loves us so much that “he gave us his only Son so that we may not perish but gain eternal life”.

This is the first lesson of the Our Father. By teaching us the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus involves us in his own prayer to form our inner being to be like him in total obedience to the Father so that his kingdom may come. Remember the acronym ACTS in praying: “A” for adoration, “C” for confession of sins, “T” for thanksgiving, and “S” for supplications. So often, we only pray the “S” that we no longer merely ask but even demand from God so many things without even praising and thanking him for all his kindness, without realizing how we have turned out to be gods and the Lord our servant!

Wailing Wall of Jerusalem, May 2019.

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. What father among you would hand his son a snake when he asks for a fish? Or hand him a scorpion when he asks for an egg? If you then, are wicked, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Luke 11:9-13

Another unique feature of St. Luke’s version of the teaching of the Lord’s prayer is the parable that follows about an insistent neighbor asking for bread followed by a series of valuable sayings about prayer. Contrary to common interpretations, Jesus is not telling us to ask God for anything we want like money and gadgets. Prayer is essentially asking for God. It is God whom we must desire in prayer because when we have God, we have everything!

In St. Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles, we find the Holy Spirit animating the early Church as a community as well as every individual. Every decision, every plan, and every prayer is always powered and guided by the Holy Spirit. When Jesus told his disciples to ask, to seek, and to knock, he was referring to always pray for the Holy Spirit for we really do not know how to pray. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to speak rightly to God for things we need to tell him.

See how the two basic prayers we have, the Our Father and the Hail Mary are actually the words of God, not by men. The Our Father is by Jesus Christ himself that is why we call it the Lord’s prayer. The Hail Mary are the words of God through Archangel Gabriel when he greeted Mary to deliver the good news she would be the Mother of Christ. Even its second part are also the words of God when the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth to praise Mary and the fruit of her womb, Jesus!

We need to ask for the Holy Spirit so that we can truly pray and enter that wonderful dialogue with God. When we pray like Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, we realize what God wants from us and we are able to respond properly as he gives us the necessary grace to accomplish them. Praying like Jesus is entering a dialogue with God, searching him and acting on his words.

Deacons prostrating before God in earnest prayer before their ordination.

That dialogue between God and Abraham at Mamre before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah in our first reading shows us that prayer helps us discern good and evil. Abraham did not bargain with God to save Sodom and Gomorrah for the sake of up to at least ten good people. In fact, only two good people remained there, Abraham’s nephew Lot and his wife who eventually perished after disobeying the angels’ instructions. What really matters in that episode is how Abraham recognized not only the good people but most of all, the prevailing evil at Sodom and Gomorrah.

Chapel of the Assumption Sabbath in Baguio, January 2019.

When we pray like Jesus, we also realize our giftedness of being saved from sin, of being “buried with him in baptism and brought to life along with him” (Col. 2:12,13) and thus becoming children of God. As children of the Father and brothers and sisters of Christ, prayer is where we enter into that deep relationship with God, learning his plans for us and how we can accomplish them by staying out of sin.

The example of Abraham and the teaching of Jesus show us that prayer is not a flight from the realities of this life and of this world. Far from being an escape, real prayer brings us closer to life, to following Christ our Savior for the glory of the Father by bringing his kingdom in this imperfect world marred by sins.

When we pray like Jesus, we get in touch with our true selves as well as with the many pains and hurts we share with others in this life journey, making us realize that we cannot do it alone. And more than the love and support we can get from our family and friends, there is God who loves us so much, giving himself to us to make it through eternal life. Have a blessed Sunday! Amen.

Choosing God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Wk. XII, Yr.I, 25 June 2019
Genesis 13:2, 5-18 >< )))*> Matthew 7:6, 12-14
The picturesque Siq leading to Petra in Jordan. Photo by author 30 April 2019.

Every day, Lord God, you give us the wonderful gift of making choices, of deciding for ourselves to choose what is best for us. Unfortunately, we always forget the very essence of making every choice which is to always choose what is good, what is the best.

Very often, we make the wrong choices in life because we fail to consider in choosing you first, the highest good, the summum bonum.

Like Lot in the first reading, we are easily misled by beautiful sights, of abundance, of having everything as bases in choosing what is best for us.

We always forget that saying “not all that glitters is gold” as Lot would eventually found out later how sinful were the people living in those areas he had chosen where the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah thrived.

Teach us to be like Abraham, to always trust in your wisdom, in your plans, and in your providence.

Teach us to choose you first of all above all.

And choosing you, Lord, means choosing the path of sacrifice and of giving of self.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”

Matthew 7:13-14

Bless, O Lord, those who have to make important decisions today, those discerning your will. Enlighten their minds and their hearts to choose you only and to stand firm on that choice. Amen.

The narrow door leading to the Nativity Church in Bethlehem that reminds us of the need to be small, to be humble to truly meet Jesus Christ. Photo by author, 04 May 2019.