Finding God, following Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Lorenzo Ruiz & Companion Martyrs, 28 September 2022
Job 9:1-12, 14-16     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Luke 9:57-62
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, of a Philippine Serpent Eagle at
the Sierra Madre, Quezon Province, July 2022.
Life is truly a mystery,
O God our loving Father!
Filled with so many twists
and turns, bends and
corners that lead 
and open us to 
new vistas, 
new situations,
new sceneries
that make us closer
to finding you and 
experiencing you.

Job answered his friend and said: God is wise in heart and mighty in strength; who has withstood him and remained unscathed? He made the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south; He does great things past finding out, marvelous things beyond reckoning. Should he come near me, I see him not; should he pass by, I am not aware of him.

Job 9:1, 4, 9-11
Like Job
and St. Lorenzo Ruiz,
many times our hearts cry
out to you unable to understand
at how and why so many bad things
are happening to us, sometimes we
feel overburdened almost giving up
but still in the end, we persevere 
because we believe in you,
we cannot go without you
for we would rather go in darkness
assured of your presence than in
light without you on our side.

As Jesus and his disciples were proceeding on their journey someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”

Luke 9:57-58
Grant us, dear Jesus,
the grace of true freedom to
choose you always freely,
to be free from any attachments
with the world and worldly
except you whom we follow
wholeheartedly like St. Lorenzo Ruiz
and companion martyrs..

And to another he said, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.” But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59-60
Grant us too, dear Jesus,
the grace to live in the present,
to be always in every here and now,
learning from the past,
forging ahead onto the future
to preach the good news of
salvation urgently,
joyfully!

And another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me say farewell to my family at home.” Jesus answered him, “No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:61-62
Lastly like St. Lorenzo,
teach us dear Jesus to be firm
in our decision in following you,
to stop entertaining thoughts
of turning back from your mission,
thoughts of seeking comforts
and other personal benefits
 except of doing and fulfilling
 your most Holy Will
unto death.
Amen.

Mary, our model disciple, companion in the mission

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, 15 September 2022
Hebrews 5:7-9     ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>     John 19:25-27
“Mater Dolorosa” also known as “Blue Madonna” (1616) by Carlo Dolci. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
A day after celebrating
the Feast of the Exaltation 
of the Cross, you remind us today
dear Jesus of your most wonderful
gift to us, a companion and a model in
discipleship, Mary your Mother.
Being the first disciple,
Mary was the first to receive
and welcome you at your Annunciation, 
the first to truly believe in you when she 
immediately told you how the newly-wed
couple ran out of wine at Cana, 
and the first to remain in you at the foot 
of the Cross; there at the Cross as your
Sorrowful Mother, Mary taught us the most
important aspect of discipleship:  intimacy 
in you and with you in prayer.

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:25-27
As I prayed on this memorial of 
Our Lady of Sorrows, I wondered what
was your Mother Mary was doing there
at the foot of your Cross, Lord Jesus? 
More than the tears and sorrow on her
face as portrayed in arts, 
all I can see and experience 
at her most lovely face, O Lord,
is a disciple so absorbed in prayer,
so united and close with you!
How sad, dear Jesus, that many
of us have forgotten this very
important aspect of discipleship
your Mother had shown us, 
a life centered on prayer;
more than reciting prayers,
it is residing in you, Jesus!
Teach us, dear Jesus,
to be like Mary, to truly take
her like the disciple you loved
of being intimate with you and the
Father in prayers; her standing at the
foot of your Cross did not simply happen
at the spur of the moment; it was the highest
moment of her long periods of time spent in
prayers, of communing with you and in you;
many times, we only come to you when we are
standing at your Cross, when trials and 
difficulties happen but when everything is
going well, we hardly remembered you nor be
with you at prayer.
All her life, 
Mary lived her life in 
prayer in you and with you
dear Jesus; when the Pentecost
happened, she was praying 
with your disciples at the Upper 
Room awaiting the coming of the
Holy Spirit; teach us, Lord Jesus,
that discipleship is essentially
prayer; whatever we do, 
it is always borne out of prayer.
Our Lady of Sorrows,
pray for us your children,
especially your priests who are
supposed to be disciples too of
your Son to immerse ourselves
in prayer first of all because before 
all else came, there was Jesus Christ
who came first calling us,
sending us on a mission to 
proclaim the good news to everyone.
Amen.

Praying for discipline

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Twenty-Third Week in Ordinary Time, Year II, 09 September 2022
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-27   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Luke 6:39-42
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.
Your words today from St. Paul
are so timely, dearest Lord Jesus; 
in a time when so many of us have
become so complacent and even
lazy in this life characterized by
comfort and ease, please reset our 
perspectives and points of view,
Jesus, when all we think is ourselves,
of being famous and popular;
worst of all, like in your stern warning
in the gospel, we have become self-
righteous, blinded by our ego that
we see ourselves better than everyone
when all we see are others' faults
without noticing our bigger faults.

Brothers and sisters: If I preach the Gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! No, i drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:16, 27
Grant me the grace,
O Lord, to be truly your follower,
your disciple, a person of
discipline who treads the path of
truth and mercy, light and understanding,
justice and mercy, honesty and sincerity; 
give me the courage to persevere in 
following you amid all pains and
difficulties.  Amen.

Conviction & Commitment to Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 04 September 2022
Wisdom 9:13-18 ><}}}}*> Philemon 9-10 ><}}}}*> Luke 14:25-33
Photo by Mr. Lorenzo Atienza, 12 June 2019, Malolos Cathedral Basilica.

One of the most moving parts of the rite of ordination to the priesthood as well at profession of vows by nuns is when they prostrate in front of the church altar to signify their total conviction and commitment to the person of Jesus Christ.

What a beautiful image of the nature and essence of discipleship requiring great sacrifices to faithfully persevere to the end in Jesus who is always the highest priority of our lives, not only of priests and religious but lay people alike for we are all called to a life of holiness.

We find this conviction and commitment to Jesus in Paul’s own experience while in prison when the slave of his friend Philemon named Onesimus fled to seek refuge in him and eventually converted into Christianity.


Conformity and fidelity to the gospel 
is beyond morality 
because it is an adherence 
to the person of Jesus Christ.

It must have been a difficult situation for Paul if found harboring a runaway slave, Onesimus, who in turn could face death as punishment for his act. Remember that slavery was normal during Paul’s time and even if he did not preach directly against its institution, here in this short powerful letter of just 25 verses he planted the seeds for its destruction when he stressed that Onesimus is Philemon’s “brother in the Lord”.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD at Katmon Harbor nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon, 29 August 2022.

Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

Philemon 15-17

Many times in life, we realize that fidelity to the gospel can be entirely unreasonable like when we have to be like Philemon whom Paul had asked to believe in the sincerity of the conversion of Onesimus his slave when it seemed to be more of convenience or merely circumstantial. Most of all, how could we receive another as a “beloved brother in the Lord” to whom we owe nothing at all when in fact who had hurt us in the first place! Conformity and fidelity to the gospel is beyond morality because it is an adherence to the person of Jesus Christ, of our communion with him and in him as his disciples.

Are we willing to go that far, of leaving everything behind, even our loved ones, our very selves for Jesus like what the gospel asks us today?

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:25-27
Photo by author, Stations of the Cross, Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary Chapel, SM Grand Central, Caloocan City, June 2022.

It is already September and we have only about 12 weeks to go before closing this liturgical year to prepare for Christmas with the Advent Season. Jesus is fast approaching Jerusalem and great crowds were already following him.

However, Jesus was very much aware too of the mixed crowd following him where many were simply curious, some were interested, still searching for more proofs perhaps while a few of them were already committed.

How about us today?

See how Luke presented Jesus resolutely journeying to Jerusalem when he turned to face the crowd that includes us today to issue two important lessons about discipleship, hating those dearest to us including our very selves and, second, carrying our cross.


There comes a time in our lives 
when the only explanation, 
the only justification, 
and the only reason 
why we do something unthinkable 
even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is not asking us to literally hate our family and friends or even our very selves; the word hate in this passage refers more to action than emotion, of doing something that others would surely hate like when we do not give in to their requests to support them in a lie or something not fair and just, or simply sinful and evil. We have experienced how it is actually more difficult to being good Christians doing God’s will, doing what is right and good that are exactly not what our family and friends are doing and would want us to also do. And that is why, when we do not go with them and their whims and caprices, they think we “hate” them.

Following Jesus means putting him first always, even above our loved ones that they always misinterpret as our lack of love and concern for them.

But more difficult than that is hating our very selves, doing a Philemon for the many Onesimus in our lives. There comes a time in our lives when the only explanation, the only justification, and the only reason why we do something unthinkable even foolish is because of Jesus Christ. And that is when we have to hate our selves like when we forgo vengeance, let go of some debts, forget all about technicalities and legalities because we love Jesus. It is really foolish by world standards that sometimes one comes to hate one’s self too for letting go and letting God.

Photo by author, detail of Seventh Station of the Cross in the Parish of San Ildefonso, Tanay, Rizal with a man wearing shades, January 2021.

Meanwhile, to carry one’s cross is more than patiently accepting our human conditions of suffering and sickness, weakness and trials in life. This understanding of carrying one’s cross implies passivity as if the difficulty we are into is something that just happened and fell on our lap or shoulder that we simply have to accept them in the name of Christ.

That is very good and highly commendable but, Jesus wants a more active participation from us. To carry one’s cross is to voluntarily choose and accept a difficulty in life as a direct consequence of our conviction in and commitment to Jesus Christ our Lord and Teacher!

This is the reason Jesus presented us with two parables after sounding his call to discipleship, that one of building a tower and of a general going to war. The two men in these parables had to calculate the cost of their efforts, of how much they have to sacrifice and give to be successful in their endeavors lest they become laughing stocks in the community. The same is true with each one of us today as disciples of Jesus.

“In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce his possession cannot be my disciple.”

Luke 14:33

Of course, Jesus gives us the grace to become good disciples but grace builds on nature; how much are we willing to sacrifice, to renounce even our very selves to truly follow Jesus through and through?

Kaya mo ba?

Photo from gettyimages.com.

Discipleship in Christ is being devoted to him in the same manner he is devoted to the Father toward whom he is drawing us. There is no other Way but Jesus alone. Therefore, to be his disciple means to prefer nothing to Christ who is our very life, our being, our end.

There is no room for mediocrity in being his disciple. We have seen in history and in our very lives how superficial discipleship had caused more damages to the Church and to each one of us when we fail to be committed to our calls. Despite our long years of seminary formation, many of us priests miserably fail in our discipleship with the many scandals that plague the Church these days, not to mention the endless complaints by people of how their pastors do not prepare homilies nor celebrate Mass daily and worst, refuse to answer sick calls! On the other hand, many families and most especially children have been destroyed by the separations of many couples who have refused to learn of letting go of themselves to let God work in their relationships. Then, there are the siblings who fight simply because they cannot let go of their principles and egos and wealth that matter most to them than their brother or sister, or even parents!

This Sunday, let us pray for God’s counsels, for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit as expressed in the first reading from the Book of Wisdom so we may not simply know what is good but most of all lead holy lives by experiencing God daily as his disciples. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Finding our directions in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in Week XIII of Ordinary Time, 01 July 2022
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, 14 May 2022 in Los Baños, Laguna.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father for this
brand new month of July 2022:
new beginning, new batch of 31
days filled with your wonderful 
surprises, filled with life and joy!
Grant us, dear Father,
with sense of directions in you
through Jesus Christ your Son;
like Matthew, may we have the grace
to respond to his call to follow him;
help us realize like Matthew
that life is not about having 
wealth and every thing money can buy
but finding meaning and 
directions in life in you.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
when affluence and comforts
overtake us that we forget you
and the people around us
like the people of Israel at the time
of Amos who "trampled upon the needy
and destroyed the poor of the land"
(Amos 8:4); all the sad conditions
happening then still happen today when
nobody cares at all about Sunday worship
nor with honesty in trading and work.

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Amos 8:11-12
Continue to speak to us, Lord,
for without your words,
we are lost like many of those
among us today, "wandering from sea
to sea, roving from north to the east"
searching for your words,
searching for meaning and
directions in life.
Amen.

In praise of women

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of Mary, Mother of the Church, 06 June 2022
Genesis 3:9-15   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 19:25-27
Photo by author, 2018.
Praise and glory to you,
God our loving Father
for all the women of the world
as we resume Ordinary Time
in our Church calendar honoring
Mary, Mother of the Church.
How wonderful to recall how
all four evangelists narrated the 
presence of women at the crucifixion
of your Son Jesus Christ:  what a 
most wondrous sight that continues 
to this day when behind every sufferings
we go through are the women who
often join and accompany us even
until death, giving us strength and 
courage, comfort and consolation.
But most wondrous, O God,
is the account of the beloved disciple
of Mary, the Mother of Jesus at the
foot of his Cross on Good Friday,
being addressed as "woman".

Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.

John 19:25-27
Only you, O God in your Son Jesus, 
can give that unique gift of womanhood
especially your Mother Mary;
you first called her "woman" at the
wedding feast at Cana and now here
at the Cross, when your hour had come.
What a beautiful image, dear Lord,
of Mary, of the woman in your work of
redemption so close and so near you
that is in direct contrast with the other woman
in Genesis, Eve, who turned away from you
in sin.
Bless us dear Jesus, 
to constantly repeat this beautiful
scene at the Cross, as an individual
and as a community of your disciples:
let us relive this scene in our lives
as Christians taking Mary your Mother
as well as the Church into our own homes
and most especially of respecting every
woman still ignored and taken for granted
in this time; let us remember always our
equal dignity with women as image and likeness
of God as we carry out your final instructions
of remaining one in you in love and mercy.
Amen.
Photo by author, 2019.

Love & Peace in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sixth Sunday in Easter-C, 22 May 2022
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29 ><}}}}*> Revelation 21:10-14, 22-23 ><}}}}*> John 14:23-29
Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.

We are now in our penultimate Sunday of the Easter Season as Jesus announces his Ascension and the sending of the Holy Spirit “who would teach his followers everything and remind them of all he had told them” (cf. Jn.14:26).

Jesus was still having his heart-to-heart talk with his disciples at the Last Supper “after Judas had left”, teaching them two very important realities in life we all wish and pray for but always afraid to work for – love and peace. Keep in mind that during the Last Supper, Jesus was telling everyone about his coming departure from earth after going through his Pasch, making his disciples to worry and be fearful of what would happen to them when the Lord is “gone”. To assure them of his continuing presence among them when his departure happens, Jesus reiterated his commandment to love one another as he gave them his gift of peace, promising the sending of the Holy Spirit who would enlighten them to understand and remember everything he had taught them.

Photo by author, Bolinao. Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Whoever love me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him… The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. You have heard me tell you, ‘I am going going away and I will come back to you. If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father; for the Father is greater than I. And now, I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.'”

John 14:23, 26-29

Love & peace as deeper realities, not fancies

Jesus reminds us today like at the Last Supper how love and peace are essential to remain close to him after he had returned to the Father in heaven, making him present among us and in the world we live in filled with many sufferings and pains, trials and struggles.

From the love and peace we strive become also our sources of joy as we go through in life as followers of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus insists in the gospel this Sunday that love and peace are not mere fancies nor emotions and feelings as the world presents them; love and peace in Christ demand the Cross. It is both a decision we have to keep and sustain through the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised to give us the courage and wisdom to truly love and work for peace.

Photo by author, Parish of St. John the Baptist, Calumpit, Bulacan, 02 May 2022.

Priority of love. See again Jesus teaching us today on the priority of love which must always be the foundation and motivation of our relationships with him and with one another. Recall how he told us last week of the “newness” of his commandment to love which is a radical commitment to Jesus, that in imitating his kind of love willing to sacrifice and die in one’s self, we remain one in the Father and with each other.

Love is the very foundation of our lives as image and likeness of God who is love himself. It is the kind of love that seeks to do the will of the Father like Jesus, willing to forget one’s own good, comfort and convenience. The Greeks call it agape, the very kind of love Jesus witnessed to us on the Cross, the same love he asked Simon Peter at the shores of Lake Tiberias after Easter.

It is humanly very difficult to love that is why the Greeks and Romans have thought of having gods and goddesses of love. It is the reason why Jesus became human so that we can love like God by asking us to keep his word so that he and the Father may dwell in us and enable us to do his works in us. Love is doable in Christ if we let him live in us. As the beloved disciple tells us, “No one has ever seen God. Yet if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1Jn.4:12).

Photo by Ms. Jing Rey Henderson in Taroytoy, Aklan, 30 April 2022.

Motivated by love. If love is the foundation of our lives, then, love must also be the motivation of everything we think, say and do. It is easy to be rooted in the love of God but it can happen that we may be doing things for God not truly borne out of love but due to fears and even selfish reasons. Hence, our need of constantly purifying our love for God

To love like Christ is to do away with all of our ifs and buts, excuses and alibis but simply to love like him. This is the most challenging part of discipleship, making it so difficult to be a Christian especially at this time. The recent events happening in our country challenge us to examine the purity of our love in him as disciples that despite of what have transpired, of whatever have been said and done, we continue to truly love and serve in Jesus.

We heard in the first reading how love inspired the early Christians to meet at the Council of Jerusalem in year 50 to discuss and resolve the many differences they encountered that early in the Church. It was first severe test of the Apostles and early Christians from within and because of love, they have triumphed and has continued to remain until now!

There will always be differences among us especially fellow Christians but these are not meant to divide us but to become means to be one in Christ in love. It is a tragedy when we disciples of Christ who claim to always know what is true and good when in fact we become the obstacles to dialogue and understanding, to peace and unity.

Love leads to peace. Here we find how love leads into peace. Like love, peace is not an emotion nor a feeling, a mere absence of war and differences but more of a product of love that is willing to sacrifice and suffer.

Jesus made it clear during Last Supper that the peace he gives is not like what the world gives that is often due to compromises, to quid pro quo in exchange of some concessions. The peace Jesus gives us is first of all one that is motivated by love of God that calls for a deep faith and trust in the Father.

Photo by author, Bolinao. Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

Peace does not depend on everything going right in our lives, when all is “silent and peaceful” as we would say. Peace sometimes comes most to us when we go through many trials in life as we trust in God more, in his goodness and in his plans for us.

The peace of Jesus Christ comes and is found within us, not outside us. That is why Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid. When we trust Jesus and do whatever he asks us out of love, then we experience peace even if there are temporary setbacks to our efforts for ourselves or family or even nation. We just have to have faith in God and continue to love in Christ for in the end, good and truth prevail.

In the Hebrew language, peace is shalom which means finding order or good relationships with one’s self, with others and with God. Let us examine our hearts and our lives this Sunday to see areas within us needing order, where we lack love as foundation and motivation in doing things that peace remains elusive to us.

May the love of Jesus Christ shine in us and through us like in the vision of John of the new Jerusalem coming down that “had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb, Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rev. 21:23). Amen.

Have a blessed and fruitful week ahead!

Photo by author, San Juan, Batangas, 14 May 2022.

Faith + works = discipleship

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 18 February 2022
James 2:14-24, 26   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 8:34-9:1
Photo from inquirer.net, 2021.
Awaken us, O Lord,
from our mistake and
error of insisting 
that our pious and religious 
exercises are the "good works"
that express our faith in you;
let us realize that it is not 
enough that we simply 
celebrate Mass, recite the
Rosary, join processions and
pilgrimages and keep other 
devotions that make us good
practicing Catholics; these are
not the good works that St. James
is asking from us in the first reading:
faith is the true living out 
of our faith in you, Jesus Christ!

For just as a body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

James 2:26
True faith in you,
O Lord, is forgetting 
one's self to reach out
to those in need, fighting
for justice and peace,
being more loving and kind,
forgiving and understanding
of others just like you, dear Jesus.
True faith in you,
dear Jesus, is being 
your disciple which is  
a call to deny one's self,
to take up one's cross in life,
and to follow YOU always
(Mark 8:34).
Give me the grace
this day, Jesus, 
to sincerely look into
myself and examine 
how true is my
faith in you, 
how my very life
and actions reveal
the faith I have
or simply do not have
at all.  Amen.

Beatitudes of Jesus, attitudes of his disciples

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week VI-C in Ordinary Time, 13 February 2022
Jeremiah 17:5-8 ><}}}}*> 1 Corinthians 15:12, 16-20 ><}}}}*> Luke 6:17, 20-26
Photo by author, monastery inside the compound of the Church of Beatitudes, the Holy Land, 2019.

From the shores of Lake Gennesaret in Capernaum, Jesus now takes us to the plains for his first series of teachings called “sermon on the plains”. In Matthew’s gospel, it is called “sermon on the mount” due to his different emphasis and audience, his fellow Jews while Luke situated it on the plains based on his own focus directed to gentiles or non-Jews.

But, whether it was on the mount or on the plains, one thing remains clear: Jesus taught important lessons specifically for his disciples called the Beatitudes.

Last Sunday Jesus called his first four disciples to become “fishers of men” and as he travelled preaching along the shores of Galilee, they grew to Twelve in number.

On the night before this scene of sermon on the plains, Jesus went up a hill with the Twelve to pray before appointing them as Apostles. It was the first “face-to-face” class of the Twelve with the Beatitudes labelled as Discipleship 101.

And raising his eyes toward his disciples he said: Blessed are you who are poor for the kingdom of God is yours. Blessed are you who are now hungry for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who are now weeping, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in heaven. But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. Woe to you who are filled now for you will be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will grieve and weep. Woe to you when all speak well of you, for their ancestors treated the false prophets in this way.”

Luke 6:20-26
Photo by author, Church of the Beatitudes, the Holy Land, 2019.

Beatitudes, the meaning of discipleship

The Beatitudes tell us the meaning of discipleship, of not simply following Jesus but making a choice, taking a stand to be like him. Each “blessedness” is actually Christ who is described as the poor, the hungry, the weeping, and the hated.

Again we find in the Beatitudes of Jesus the contrasts and contradictions we have reflected three Sundays ago when he was rejected by his own folks at a synagogue in Nazareth (see https://lordmychef.com/2022/01/29/living-loving-amid-contradictions/).

See the set of “Blessed” followed by a corresponding set of “woes”, giving us a hint that the Beatitudes were patterned by Jesus to Jeremiah’s pronouncements to the people we heard in the first reading,

“Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord. Blessed is the who trusts in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: it fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; in the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.”

Jeremiah 17:5, 7-8

Both in Jeremiah and in the Beatitudes by Jesus, there is the promise of blessings in the future; however, it is not something we only hope to achieve in the future but something realized in the present IF we trust in the Lord.

Photo by author, pilgrims entering the Church of the Beatitudes, 2019.

More than a promise of hope in a future glory, the Beatitudes by Jesus are directions every disciple must take as path in life, guides or criteria in discerning the will of God for us in this life. It is said that the word beatitude is from “be attitude” or the attitudes of a disciple.

That gesture of the Lord looking up to his disciples that include us today while teaching the Beatitudes indicates his recognition of our present situation by speaking in the present tense with “Blessed are you who are now poor, hungry, weeping and hated”.

Are we not feeling poor and hungry, actually weeping and hated in this intensely heated politics in the country where everyone seems to be lacking reason and shame, everyone going insane and worst, salaula (filthy) without any sense of shame at all?

At the same time, all those pronouncements of having the Kingdom of God, of being satisfied, of laughing, and of being rewarded greatly in heaven are not things we get in the future if we suffer now; these we can NOW have amid our sufferings when we are one in Jesus Christ.

The saints have shown us in their lives most especially St. Paul how while being poor, hungry, weeping and hated they have experienced fulfillment and joy at the same time. We ourselves have proven them right that with St. Paul we can “boast” like him, “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:10).

The key is union in Jesus Christ because the Beatitudes not only reveal to us his very person but also his Paschal Mystery of Passion, Death and Resurrection. It is therefore an imperative that every disciple must be immersed in Christ because discipleship is the imitation of Christ. Again, we borrow from St. Paul who said, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal.2:20).

Photo by author, dome of the Church of Beatitudes, the Holy Land, 2019.

Woes of not following Jesus

Contrary to claims by many philosophers and filosofong tasyo alike who are atheists and anti-Church, God is not a sadomasochist who delights in seeing his people suffer and die. Nothing bad can come from God for God is love (1 Jn. 4:8).

Unbelievers continue to question God, most especially Jesus and his Beatitudes that are clearly about sufferings with its apparent dislike or rejection of wealth and fame like what Jesus spoke of the woes in the second part of his Beatitudes.

There is nothing wrong with being rich, being filled, of laughing and being spoken well by others per se; in fact, these are all good in themselves. However, Jesus spoke of them as woes based on the pattern we have seen from Jeremiah’s pronouncements in the first reading: “Cursed is the man who trusts in human beings, who seeks his strength in flesh, whose heart turns away from the Lord.”

See how Jesus was more “soft” and gentle in his woes than God in Jeremiah’s instruction to the people that was so harsh, saying “cursed” is the man who trusts in human beings, whose heart turns away from the Lord.

Photo by author, altar in the Church of Beatitudes, 2019.

But here we find its true context too: it is a warning sign, a reminder of the dangers that can happen to anyone who trusts in himself more and turns away from God.

Here we find something truly happening in the future – not now – unlike in the Beatitudes wherein the future blessings are experienced in the present moment if we suffer in communion with Christ.

Very clear in Jeremiah and in the woes of Jesus, turning away from God surely leads to disaster because it is the opposite path of blessings.

At the same time, since God does not punish, the woes by Jesus are not a condemnation of those who are rich, filled, laughing and well spoken of others. His woes are not expressions of hatred nor hostilities but warning against the dangers of being so proud, of being filled with one’s self, of playing god because it is the path to destruction. Or even perdition as we shall see later this year in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man found only in Luke’s gospel.

The Greeks have a more precise term for that called hubris – an excessive pride and defiance of the gods that leads to one’s nemesis. Clearly, God does not punish nor condemn anyone of us. It is always our choice that we are lost and end in woes, as Shakespeare immortalized in the words of Cassius in Julius Caesar,

"The fault, dear Brutus, 
is not in our stars 
But in ourselves, 
that we are underlings".

Have a blessed week ahead, everyone. God bless you all. Amen.

Praying to be simple

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop & Martyr, 03 February 2022
1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   Mark 6:7-13
Photo by Emre Kuzu on Pexels.com
God our Father,
as we celebrate today
the memorial of St. Blaise,
a Bishop and Martyr so loved
by people for the many miracles
attributed to him, I pray only for 
one thing:  to be simply simple
like him.
His life was clearly a life of simplicity
anchored in deep faith in you, in just
having you in through prayers and
examples of life; St. Blaise took to
heart Jesus Christ's instructions to 
the Twelve "to take nothing for the 
journey but a walking stick - no food,
no sack, no money in their belts" as
"they proclaimed repentance, driving
off many demons, and healing the
sick" (Mark 6:8, 12).
Famous for healing those with 
afflictions of the throat and neck,
St. Blaise's life of simplicity reminds
us how too much things of the world
like wealth and fame could "choke" us,
preventing us from bridging what is
in our hearts and what is in our minds. 
Like King David in the first reading,
let us realize that someday, we are 
"going the way of all flesh" that 
for us to be truly rich and fruitful 
in life, it is best to keep the mandate
of the Lord always for he alone is our
life and meaning.  Amen.