Remembering, praying 9/11

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXIII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 11 September 2020
1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-27   <*(((><<   |+|   >><)))*>   Luke 6:39-42
NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 11, 2001. Photo by Robert Giroux/Getty Images.

Today, we remember, O Lord, 9/11 – more than the date but the people who have perished, those injured, those who risked their lives for others, and countless others whose lives were forever changed by the terror attacks of that day.

Your servant St. Pope John Paul II lamented at that time how year 2001 – the start of the new century – was marked by that unimaginable attack on human life and freedom.

Nineteen years after, we still remember those vivid moments caught on television that stunned us in disbelief. Most of all, we can still feel the pain and fear 9/11 had stirred in us even if we were thousands of miles away from ground zero.

May this occasion remind us too, Lord Jesus, of our task of great efforts that lie ahead to proclaim your gospel of salvation amidst these troubled times.

All the more that we feel the importance of proclaiming the gospel in this time of the pandemic, 19 years after 9/11 as we go through many crises and calamities of biblical proportions. How sad that until now, we have refused to examine our true selves so we can see clearly the path we are taking.

Jesus told his disciples a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own?”

Luke 6:39, 41

Until now, wars and attacks on life continue everywhere around the world because right inside our hearts, Lord, we have refused to forget ourselves, think more of others so that we can be like St. Paul to “become all things to all” (omnia omnibus) like a slave foregoing our own good and comforts for the sake of more people.

Teach us to discipline ourselves, Lord, for all these crises we are facing today begin inside us.

thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

1 Corinthians 9:26-27

To remember anyone and anything in the past, Lord, is to always change to make them better. Let it begin in me by first remembering your dying on the Cross for me. Amen.

The wildfires created a natural Instagram filter across California. Photo: MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images; 10 September 2020.

Presence and Love of Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XXIII, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 06 September 2020
Ezekiel 33:7-9 /// Romans 13:8-10 /// Matthew 18:15-20
Photo by Mr. Gelo N. Carpio, January 2020.

For the next three Sundays beginning today, our liturgy directs our gaze to the nature of the Church as the mystical Body of Jesus Christ. For today we hear from Matthew how we as a church or a community of believers are signs of the presence and love of Jesus Christ.

Recall how two weeks ago at Caesarea Philippi Jesus called Simon as “Peter” (“Rock”) to head his “church”, giving him the keys to the kingdom of heaven that whatever he binds on earth shall be bound in heaven and whatever he looses on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Mt.16:17-19).

Matthew is the only evangelist so particular in using the term “church” that he devoted chapter 18 of his gospel on its nature, collecting and giving some of the Lord’s teachings about community life to his own group of disciples or early church.

And off he went to start with the most important part of community life:

Jesus said to his disciples: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you… If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector… Again, amen, I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

Matthew 18:15-16, 17, 19-20
Photo by author, dome of the Malolos Cathedral, 2019.

Presence of Jesus in the love and unity of community

In a very short teaching taking a step by step method, Jesus tells us today how our mutual love shall always take precedence above all in our community life as his disciples and sign of presence.

Though we do not find in our gospel this Sunday the word “love”, it is clearly the Lord’s lesson for today: it is mutual love for one another that must guide everyone specially in the delicate matter of fraternal correction when one is going wayward in his/her path of life.

This explains why Jesus spelled out step by step how we correct others primarily because we love, not because we are better than them or that we have such authority or task and duty. Paul beautifully says it in our second reading:

Brothers and sisters: Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law.

Romans 13:8, 10

But of course, we need to clarify that all these lessons of love from the Lord and Paul are based on the love of Jesus Christ who clearly mandated us during his last supper how we must love:

I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

John 13:34-35

What makes this loving one another a “new commandment” is loving like Jesus Christ, unlike the pagans in ancient times that are still imitated to this day even by many among us who are also Christians. So often we find specially in media how love is portrayed as mere feelings like physical attraction that always leads up to sex, devoid of any sanctity and inner beauty at all.

St. Augustine called it “disordered love” when we become self-centered and selfish, directing our love solely to attaining what pleases us that we use persons and love things like money.

Love is not just a feeling but a decision, a choice we make and affirm every day specially when times are very rough and tough for us like when we are not loved in return.

Most of all, love is when we find somebody else we can love more than ourselves (Thomas Merton). This is the kind of love that Jesus and Paul as well as all the other saints speak of: the self-sacrificing love Christ showed us when he offered himself on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Monastery of the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at the Milk Grotto in Bethlehem where the Holy Family hid before fleeing to Egypt to escape Herod’s order to massacre the Holy Innocents, May 2019.

Love of Jesus builds, not destroys

Applying the law of love to our community is the most severe test of our being disciples of Jesus when we are challenged to be sincere in our love by hating what is evil and holding on to what is good like blessing those who persecute us, foregoing vengeance against those who have wronged us along with other expressions of mutual love in our community that Paul tells us in Romans 12:9-21.

In teaching us mutual love for one another in a step by step manner, it may seem to be a duty that one must follow in the church. It may even sound as contradictory that Jesus seems to be commanding us to strictly follow his law of command because no law can ever impose love.

However, when we try to reflect the ending of his teachings today – “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” – we find Jesus not ordering us to love but asking us our love because he loves us. He comes to us, grants our prayers because he loves us; therefore, when we love, when we gather as his disciples, we become his presence. And that is when our prayers are most effective because Jesus is in our midst!

Jesus and his love always build people and community; without him and his love, all we have is destruction and divisions. Hence, love is the only debt we owe to anyone. Love as a debt and “duty” is never paid back because the more we love, the more we have love, the more we are indebted to Jesus. It is the only debt that is never burdensome; in fact, the opposite happens when we refuse to love – we are burdened, life becomes heavy and so difficult.

This is what Ezekiel is telling us in the first reading: we are a “watchman”, a brother’s keeper of everyone. St. Pope Gregory the Great wrote a beautiful homily on being a watchman:

Note that a man whom the Lord sends forth as a preacher is called a watchman. A watchman always stands on a height so that he can see from afar what is coming. Anyone appointed to be a watchman for the people must stand on a height for all his life to help them by his foresight.

Office of Readings, Memorial of St. Pope Gregory the Great, 03 September
Photo by author, sunset inside our parish, 25 August 2020.

In the Church, those designated as watchman of the flock of Jesus is the Bishop or episkopos in Greek that means watcher or overseer. It is the bishop’s duty to always be above others in the loving service of the Church that sometimes out of love for Christ, he has to discipline those going astray as instructed in our gospel today, “If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector”, that is, excommunication or suspensions and other measures not meant to punish but to convert and correct the sinner.

Next Sunday, Matthew deepens our lesson on mutual love when he presents us the teachings of Jesus on how often we must forgive our brother or sister who repeatedly sins against us.

See my dear reader, how after presenting to us who is Jesus Christ last month, in how much he loves us and seeks us, these following Sundays we are challenged by the Lord to be like him – loving and merciful – to truly keep our relationship with him.

It is the first Sunday of September, the -ber months that tell us Christmas is around the corner. But, it seems we are still in a long haul in this pandemic. Having a vaccine will not totally eradicate COVID-19 nor guarantee us this won’t happen again in the future because the disease that is truly plaguing us until now is our refusal to love and live as brothers and sisters in Christ. Let us give it a try. Slowly. Jesus is not rushing us. All he is asking us is be open to his words expressed earlier in our responsorial psalm: “If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Have a heart and have a blessed, lovely week, everyone!

Aral ng COVID 19, VI: disiplina ang gamot sa sakit natin

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-11 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Anne Ramos, Abril 2020
Habang tumatagal itong quarantine 
lalong ipinakikita hindi COVID-19
ang kalaban natin kungdi ating sarili din;
matagal nang sakit na hindi kayang gamutin
nakaugat nang malalim sa katauhan natin
kawalan ng disiplina kay hirap sugpuin.
Sa gitna ng kawalan ng maaasahan
sa pamahalaang abala sa kapalaluan
ayaw pakinggan mga paraan ng nakakaalam
disiplina nating mga mamamayan
ang pinaka-mabisang sanggalang
laban sa virus na galing sa Wuhan.
Tingnan, pag-aralan, at tularan
pamamaraan ng mga bansa kung saan
paglaganap ng COVID-19 ay nalabanan
laging matatagpuan dalawang bagay magkasabay:
mahusay at magaling na pamahalaan
disiplinadong mga mamamayan.
Masunurin ang turing sa taong may disiplina
na nagmula sa wikang Griyego na discipulos,
taga-sunod o alagad; sa wikang Latin, 
dalawang kataga ang pinagsama
"ob audire" na ibig sabihin "makinig na maigi"
kaya sa Inggles "obedient" ang isang masunurin.

Ang taong may disiplina
 masunurin sa tuwina
laging nakikinig sa mga sasabihin
upang kanyang tuparin 
mga ipinagbibilin
 ano mang atas na kanyang gawain.
Kung ating lilimihin lalim
ng kahulugan ng disiplina
ito rin ang siyang dahilan
upang ating matutuhan
kahalagahan ng pagtitiyaga
at paghihintay na atin nang tinalikuran.
Pagkaraan ng mahigit limang buwan
lahat na lamang sa atin ay dinaraan 
sa paspasan, pag-aagawan, at pagdarayaan
kaya hanggang ngayon wala tayong patunguhan;
kung bawat mamamayan mayroong disiplina
baka sakali tinablan ng kahihiyan mga kinauukulan
wala na silang dahilan sa kanilang kapabayaan 
dahil sila unang nagkulang sa disiplinang kinakailangan
hindi nila tayo maaring sisihin 
nagkulang sa pagsugpo sa COVID-19.
Larawan kuha ni Bb. Anne Ramos, Marso 2020.

Praying for discipline

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Saturday, Memorial of St. Dominic De Guzman, Priest, 08 August 2020
Habakkuk 1:12-2:4 >><)))*> || + || >><)))*> || + || >><)))*> Matthew 17:14-20
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 2019.

As we close this very dismal week of soaring number of COVID-19 patients and plunging economy now officially in recession, we pray to you God our Father for the grace of discipline, of being your follower in the truest sense of the word.

Give us discipline… and discipline us, O God, to set our lives and our country back in order.

We have no one to turn to at this stage: our leaders are blaming us, blaming everyone except themselves for all the mess our country is into.

Like your prophet Habakkuk in the first reading, we also wonder at your silence over all these people leading us in government who seem to be more like clowns in a circus.

Too poor are your eyes to look upon evil, and the sight of misery you cannot endure. Why, then, do you gaze on the faithless in silence while the wicked man devours one more just than himself? You have made man like the fish of the sea, like creeping things without ruler.

Habakkuk 1:13-14

Thank you, O God, in sending us saints who are models of discipline in prayer and virtues like St. Dominic De Guzman whose Memorial we celebrate today.

St. Dominic by Fra Angelico from Google.com.

Before he could be the “hound of the Lord” (Domini canes) bringing onto the world that torch of light plunged into darkness, St. Dominic first nurtured in himself that unique discipline of waiting for you in prayers.

And after founding the Order of Preachers, he was so well-disciplined in life centered only in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior:

Dominic possessed such great integrity and was so strongly motivated by divine love, that without a doubt he proved to be a bearer of honor and grace. He was a man of great equanimity, except when moved to compassion and mercy… Wherever he went he showed himself in word and deed to be a man of the Gospel. During the day no one was more community-minded or pleasant toward his brothers and associates. During the night hours no one was more persistent in every kind of vigil and supplication.

From the Office of Readings on the Memorial of St. Dominic

So often, we ask or – complain to you – Lord Jesus like your disciples in the gospel today why we cannot imitate and do your works? And you readily said, it is because of our “little faith” (Mt.17:20).

Very true, Lord, because after gifting us with faith, we have failed to deepen and nurture it in prayer achieved in a life of discipline that makes us patient in waiting for you.

Then the Lord answered me and said: For the vision still has its time, presses on to fulfillment, and will not disappoint; if it delays, wait for it, it will surely come, it will not be late. The rash man has no integrity; but the just man, because of his faith, shall live.

Habakkuk 2:3-4

Please Lord Jesus, help us discipline our selves in this most trying crisis we have ever faced in recent history, that instead of fighting, we may truly follow your ways. Amen.

St. Dominic De Guzman, pray for us! Amen.

Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, January 2019.

Discipline and tenderness

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2020
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 >><)))*> ] + [ <*(((><< Matthew 12:46-50
Photo by author of sheep grazing at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, QC, 2018.

What a beautiful prayer today to you, O God our Father by your prophet Micah:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old; as in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs.

Micah 7:14-15

Shepherd us like a true father, God, the old fashioned and right way symbolized by your staff: strong and sturdy to discipline us especially when we wander far from you, and yet at the same time, so tender and forgiving – full of clemency as Micah mentioned – when we are lost or stuck in a cliff or a crevice.

This is probably the one combination we are terribly missing these days, discipline and tenderness, the cornerstone of formation in every family expressed in the adage from the Sacred Scriptures, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” which the modern society strongly objects and frowns upon:

St. John Paul II waves to well-wishers in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 1978 when elected as Pope, holding his staff, symbol of his being a shepherd.

He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him.

Proverbs 13:24

Discipleship or being a disciple is primarily about discipline, of following not only the steps of the Lord and Master but also his ways.

From the word discipulos or to follow came the words follower and discipline alike.

Jesus Christ your Son perfectly said it in our gospel today when he rightly claimed that “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt.13:50).

Give us the grace, O Lord, to take the right path anew of discipline to form our moral backbones tempered with your tenderness and mercy so we may truly work for a just and humane society here on earth so that your kingdom may finally come! Amen.