The joy of meeting God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fifth Sunday in Lent-C, 03 April 2022
Isaiah 43:16-21 ><}}}*> Philippians 3:8-14 ><}}}*> John 8:1-11
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 20 February 2022.

From the joy of coming home to the Father last Sunday in the parable of the merciful father, we now celebrate the joy of meeting God in Jesus Christ in the story of the woman caught in adultery.

We are now into the final week of Lent, getting closer to the innermost room of the Father’s house but this time with John as our guide as we skip Luke’s gospel. The shift is hardly noticeable as the story of the woman caught in adultery seamlessly jibe with Luke’s parable last Sunday. The Pharisees and scribes are again present but this time more bold in their opposition to Jesus.

From pinterest.com.

Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery and made her stand in the middle. They said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the the law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they could have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger.

John 8:3-6

Only John records this story of the woman caught in adultery but one can clearly recognize its similar tone and perspective with the parable last Sunday that only Luke had, the parable of the merciful father, more known as parable of the prodigal son. Both stories tell us the gospel of God’s mercy proclaimed in words and in deeds by our Lord Jesus Christ.

But what makes this story of the woman caught in adultery a stand out is its simplicity amidst the profound texts by John often identified as the beloved disciple. He was able to compact in few words and simple gestures the many realities in life we forget and take for granted.

As I prayed over this scene, one word persisted in my reflections: kindness.

Photo by author, 2018, Davao City.
The kindness of God.

The word “kind” is from kin or kindred as in family or tribe. When we say a person is kind, we mean that person treats us as one of his family, of his same kind, that he deals with us like we are not “others” or iba as we say in Filipino (hindi ka naman iba).

How sad that at the start of this pandemic in 2020, that was when all news and stories spread of how we have become so unkind with each other especially the poor, the sick and the old, children and women treated unkindly like Mang Dodong of Caloocan.

How sad that in our country, it has become a sin, an error or a failure to be poor and disadvantaged that even the poor and disadvantaged look down at each other, too! There is always that feeling among us that we are different, that we are not of the same kind that it has become so difficult to find kindness among everybody. We have forgotten we are all human, imperfect and sinful but also beloved children of God.

This is what the Sunday gospel is telling us: the woman caught in adultery is not the only sinner in this scene. John described her as “caught in adultery”, not merely an “adulteress” to show that she was in fact caught into adultery. It is a serious sin but there’s more to be caught in that act than meets the eyes. Here, there is no mention about the woman’s “lover”.

Like in our gospel last Sunday, we have the Pharisees and scribes present again, forgetting their very roles in the story itself. Recall that Jesus told the parable of the merciful father for them last Sunday to remind them that they were both the prodigal son and elder son. And that included us today, of course. Today, they are back and we wonder what were the evidence they have against that woman. Where were they while the woman was committing the sin of adultery? Were they peeping toms? Or worst, have they had some trysts with her too in the past?

Both the woman caught in adultery and her accusers, the Pharisees and the scribes stand for us all – we are sinners. We have all sinned and how dare are we to act like the Pharisees and scribes pretending to be different from others, to be so clean and pure when deep inside us are also rotten with sins that could even be worst than the people we accuse.

This is the reason why Jesus bent twice to show everyone how God had chosen to go down to us, to be like us in everything except sin so we can see again everyone as our kin, our same kind as children of the Father.

But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he bent down and wrote on the ground. And in response, they went away one by one, beginning with the elders. So he was left alone with the woman before him.

John 8:7-9
Photo by news.ag.org, Jesus writing on the sand in the story of the woman caught in adultery.
Bending to washing of feet to dying on Cross.

In bending down twice, Jesus showed everyone – the accused and the accusers – the kindness of God, his being our kin, his being one of us even if he is Divine. To bend down is to go down, like Jesus coming down from heaven, being born as a child to show us that the path back to God is in being human which is underscored by Matthew in his genealogy of Jesus Christ at the start of his Gospel which is proclaimed every December 17 and December 24 Christmas Eve.

Here in this scene we are reminded by his bending as an imagery of the mystery of Incarnation just like his coming down to Jordan River at his baptism by John.

This bending of Jesus will happen again on Holy Thursday when he washed the feet of his apostles where he gave his commandment to love (hence, it is called as Maundy Thursday, from Latin mandatum for commandment). It will reach its highest point when he bent lowest on Good Friday by offering himself on the Cross for us all out of his immense love and mercy. And kindness.

That is the greatest expression of God’s love and mercy, in his kindness, in his becoming one of us in Jesus Christ who took upon himself our sins so we may be clean again and be able to rise and stand with dignity and honor as beloved children of the Father.

This is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words in the first reading that God is doing something new for us.

Jesus is not telling us to stop fighting sin and evil, to cease from pursuing criminals and people who have committed crimes and grave sins against us and others. The fight goes on but should always be tempered with being humane.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The beautiful story of how Jesus resolved the case against the woman caught committing adultery assures us of the endless mercies of God to us sinners, not a passport to sin. See how Jesus recognized the sinfulness of the woman when he told her, go and sin no more – the most humane reprimand perhaps in history.

It is only in our being kind like Jesus that we become truly human and humane.

According to John, the first to leave the site after Jesus challenged them to cast the first stone were the elders that may stand for having wisdom, not necessarily being aged. The first to leave the site were the wise, those who must have realized their own sinfulness and saw how gravely wrong they were in being so harsh with the woman.

Many times in life, it is difficult to be kind in this unkind world because we have stopped seeing our commonality, our shared humanity, our links with one another, our relationships. We have become so competitive that we always want to be distinct from everyone to the point that we have ceased becoming humans, playing gods most of the time.

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 2019.

The grace of this final week of Lent is the kindness of God that remains with everyone, even with the most harsh among us, the most sinful. Jesus is inviting us to bend down with him, see him even down below when we are in sins. He is not condemning us nor hurting us with words nor actions. Ever the most humble and gentle of all, our most kind Lord Jesus is telling us today to take up his yoke and learn from him, always kind with everyone.

And that begins with our very selves. Many times, we cannot be kind with others because in the first place we are so unkind with our very selves. We cannot see our true selves that we compete within ourselves, that we should be somebody else.

What a wonderful gift to be our true selves again and still loved by God.

Let us heed Paul’s call in the second reading: “forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead. I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14).

Have a blessed week ahead, be kind to yourself first of all. Amen.

The joy of coming home in the Father

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Fourth Sunday in Lent-C a.k.a. "Laetare Sunday", 27 March 2022
Joshua 5:9, 10-12 ><}}}*> 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 ><}}}*> Luke 15:1-3, 11-32
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, in Lourdes, France, 20 March 2022.

Life is a daily Lent, a coming home to the Father. As I have been telling you, the 40-days of Lent is a journey back home to God in Jesus Christ with each Sunday like a door leading us closer to Him. We rejoice this Fourth Sunday – Laetare Sunday – as we near God’s inner room, knowing Him more than ever as we experience His immense love and mercy for us like a Father welcoming his children to “enter” and celebrate home in Him.

But, are we really in the journey?

Or, are we just like the two selfish, self-centered brothers in the parable who took their father for granted by pursuing for their own very selves?

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.” So to them Jesus addressed this parable: “A man had two sons…”

Luke 15:1, 3, 11
Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Acting like the sons…

Once again, we hear another story from Luke that is uniquely his. It is more known as the parable of the prodigal son when in fact the center of the story is the loving and merciful father giving everything including his very self to his two sons.

There are two preceding parables before this third one, that of the lost sheep and of the lost coin that are in chapter 15 of Luke’s gospel. See how Jesus developed into a rising crescendo his series of parables starting with a lost sheep, a lost coin, and finally, lost sons. The common thread running through the three parables was the great joy of the shepherd, woman and father upon having their lost ones again. Clearly, God is the shepherd, the woman, and the father looking for the lost sheep, lost coin and lost sons. And here lies the very essence of the parables, especially in this third one about the loving and merciful father: “the Pharisees and scribes who began to complain why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

We are those Pharisees and scribes who doubt and refuse to believe, even run away from our loving God in the belief there must be somebody else there who could love us truly by giving us what we need.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019 in my former parish.

Exactly like the younger son in the parable who sees God merely as a provider, an ATM or a Western Union counter who gives the cash we need to buy things we believe would complete us without realizing God is our life, our identity and root of being. This we find at what prompted the younger son to return home (return home, not come home which happens only when home is a person, not a place nor thing).

When he had freely spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he found himself in dire need. So he hired himself out to one of the local citizens who sent him to his farm to tend the swine. And he longed to eat his fill of the pods on which the swine fed, but nobody gave him any. Coming to his senses he thought, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here am I, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

Luke 15:14-19

Sometimes we are like the younger son who returns home just to preserve one’s self – to have a roof and to have food so as not to starve, never go hungry. It is the first temptation of the devil, teasing Jesus and us to turn stones into bread because man lives to eat! That is why we keep on asserting our own power so we can do everything because we have forgotten our being-ness in God. We hate having nothing, being empty and would rather fill our bellies with whatever we can stuff our mouth with that in the process even swallow our pride and dignity to have, to possess everything, even everybody except God.

Photo by author, Laetare Sunday 2019.

On the other hand, we are like the Pharisees and scribes “complaining why Jesus welcomes sinners and eats with them” so personified by the elder son who refused to enter their house to join the celebrations at the return of his prodigal brother because his manipulative schemes have been unmasked. For him, serving his father was just a show because he was only an actor, everything was a movie or a teleserye playing one’s roles in exchange of a fee and fame.

He said to his father in reply, “Look all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughter the fattened calf.”

Luke 15:29-30

Again, we find here some semblance of the second and third temptations to Jesus and to us by the devil: worship him and you will be popular and powerful! We all want having the best for us to be the very best among our peers and neighbors. We are willing to buy time, even buy people just to be known and popular. We would not mind being patient over a long period of time believing in the end, we could end up having all.

When we think of our needs to be secured and safe, popular and powerful, the first that comes to our minds and consciousness are things that money can buy, food that fill stomach, and drinks that refresh the body. Like the two brothers, they were all concerned with material and physical, nothing spiritual nor emotional or even mental. A life without any depth like Alfie played by Michael Caine with music by Burt Bacharach asking, “What’s it all about, Alfie? Is it just for the moment we live?”

That’s the tragedy of our lives, of being like the Pharisees and scribes personified by the two brothers who were so lost in their own selves, refusing to see beyond to find others and God, now and eternity, earth and heaven.

Photo by author, view from the Old Jerusalem, May 2019.

…becoming like the Father

This is the grace of this fourth Sunday, its greatest joy and cause for celebration: our being home in God, being whole again in Him after realizing and accepting our broken and sinful selves.

Make no mistake that it was us who have found God; no, it is the other way around.

God is the Father always awaiting for us that He sent Jesus Christ to lead us home again in Him. In this parable, the late Fr. Henri Nouwen rightly said Jesus is the “prodigal son” who left heaven not out of rebellion but because of obedience and submission to lead us all back to the Father, the only One who loves us truly, our very “first love” for He is the one who loves us first and still loves us no matter what.

Stop seeking for the world’s basic staples of food and wealth, fame and power because the most basic truth in this life is we are loved by God who is love Himself because He is life. See Luke’s sense of humor: the prodigal son wanted only food and shelter but the father gave him back his status as son with the ring, fine clothes and slippers, and feast while the elder son was longing for a mere young goat without realizing it has long been his for everything the father has was his too! Like us in many occasions in life, we fail to see how much we already have in God that we turn away from Him to settle for lesser things.

See our foolishness in desiring the world when it has always been ours if we remain in God. That is why we need to celebrate because finally we have found what is truly basic and valuable, God who gave us his Son Jesus Christ so we can find our way back home to Him and learn what is most valuable in life.

In this parable, Jesus is asking us to “level up” our existence, to rise above our very selves and be who we really are as beloved children of the Father who is merciful and rich in kindness.

Like in the first reading, no more manna for we have entered the Promised Land where we can have real food and real drink – Jesus Christ who sustains us to eternal life. Let us keep in mind and heart Paul’s reminder and call in the second reading that “Whoever is in Christ is a new creation… so, let us be reconciled in God” (2 Cor. 5:17, 20). Only those who are reconciled in God in Jesus can experience true joy… so, stop complaining and whining of others getting close with God. Join us and celebrate! Amen.

Have a joyuful week ahead.

The ghosts within us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week IV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 04 February 2022
Sirach 47:2-11   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 6:14-29
Photo by author, January 2021.
Thank you so much,
dearest God our Father
for being so kind and merciful
to us, so loving and forgiving
which so often we cannot accept
nor believe; like Herod, we keep on
creating ghosts and monsters
within us as we believe more in
our selves, refusing to listen to your
voice in our conscience that bothers
us whenever we sin and do evil.

King Herod heard about Jesus, for his fame had become widespread, and people were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why mighty powers are at work in him.” Others were saying, “He is Elijah;” sill others, “He is a prophet like any of the prophets.” But when Herod learned of it, he said, “It is John whom I beheaded. He has been raised up.”

Mark 6:14-16
Dearest God,
make me realize 
you are not looking for 
an angel or a saint in me;
that all you are asking me 
is to be like David, a repentant
sinner; how beautiful it is to
recall the many sins of David -
some so serious and grave but
despite his weaknesses, he never 
turned away from you completely;
despite his evil deeds, until now
he is considered Israel's greatest king
for he accomplished much not because 
of his brilliance and courage but largely
because of his love and faith in you.

With his every deed he offered thanks to God Most High, in words of praise. With his whole being he loved his Maker and daily had his praises sung. He set singers before the altar and their voices he made sweet melody. He added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year. So that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound. The Lord forgave him his sins and exalted his strength forever; he conferred on him the rights of royalty and established his throne in Israel.

Sirach 47:8-11
Wake us up, Lord,
from our nightmares,
to arise today in your warmth
and light, convinced of your
love and promise of new chances
and opportunities to be better
than yesterday.  Amen.

“Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake (2014)

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 11 April 2021
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, at Rhode Island, 10 April 2021.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, 
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, 
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, 
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, 
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, 
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, 
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way
 – in short, the period was so far like the present period, 
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted 
on its being received, for good or for evil, 
in the superlative degree of comparison only.
(Charles Dickens, "A Tale of Two Cities")

I know this blog is supposed to be music but Charles Dickens’ famous lines opening his novel “A Tale of Two Cities” are in fact very lyrical and musical. And with our Dickensian situation especially in the way this government has mishandled the pandemic since the very start, we have chosen for our music this Sunday of Divine Mercy something so lively and upbeat, so intense like our Risen Lord who broke free from death and sin, able to enter any locked door and person.

It is a song “resurrected” in 2014 with Justin Timberlake after Michael Jackson suddenly died in 2009, earning so much popularity and acclaim as if MJ were back in life again with this posthumously released hit, Love Never Felt So Good.

Originally written and recorded in a demo track in 1980 with Paul Anka, Love Never Felt So Good was the first single released from Jackson’s second posthumous album, Xscape.

The song is the second collaboration between Jackson and Anka to be released since Jackson’s death in 2009 with This Is It being the first. (Interesting trivia: Anka rearranged the song in 1984 for Jackson’s longtime friend Johnny Matthis who recorded it in his 1984 album A Special Part of Me.)

We chose Love Never Felt So Good primarily for its feel good, positive vibes so infectious which we all need this Easter 2021 with all the deaths and sickness happening due to the pandemic.

There is also the semblance with Easter in a sense with MJ being “resurrected” with the reworked version of the song with Timberlake, another intense artist who can surely drive away the blues today.

Most of all, we find the lyrics very apt with our gospel story of St. Thomas who doubted Christ’s appearance to his fellow apostles (not his Resurrection).

Let us not take doubt as lack of faith; in fact, doubts lead us to deeper and stronger faith like with what happened to Thomas. What matters is we remain in the Lord, keeping ourselves open to his coming like St. Thomas (https://lordmychef.com/2021/04/10/easter-the-intensity-of-jesus/).

In Love Never Felt So Good, Jackson mentions his doubts many times if he is also loved by the woman he desires; but in spite of those doubts, he believed deep in his heart that love never felt so good if they would be together.

The same thing is true with us: amid our doubts are also the strong conviction something good can still happen with the grace of God. What matters is that we learn to balance the many twins in our lives like Thomas: the joys and sorrows we experience, the light and darkness that come our way, the triumph and defeats we face, and lately, the births and healing and deaths we experience in this pandemic.

Trust in Jesus always who promised us his Divine Mercy overflowing despite our sins and sufferings.

A lamentation prayer on Divine Mercy Sunday

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), 11 April 2021
 Acts 4:32-35  >><)))*>  1John 5:1-6  >><)))*>  John 20:19-31
Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas” from en.wikipedia.org.

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father in heaven! Despite the recent surge in the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still here today celebrating the Easter Octave which is also the Divine Mercy Sunday of your Son Jesus Christ.

Thank you for the gift of life.

Thank your for the tears we have been shedding lately for those whom we have lost.

Thank you for the gift of faith in you, for the grace to still pray amid all the pains and sufferings coming our way.

Thank you so much for our medical frontliners who are so exhausted and drained serving us for over a year now since this pandemic started. Keep them strong in body, mind and soul. Take care of their families and loved ones. We want to see them and celebrate with them when this is all over so we may thank them personally for being our rays of hope and life in these times.

Thank you also for those who have been working tirelessly especially at night so we can have bread and other food in the morning, those who keep our industries and utilities running, those people we hardly know and remember but so essential not only in keeping us alive and comfortable but most of all sane in this crazy period in history.

You know very well our cries, our complaints and our pleadings, dear Father.

Forgive us when we forget those living in the margins, suffering and crying in silence, those who have stopped going to school, those who have lost jobs, those to be evicted from their homes for lack of money to pay their rentals, for those who could not make their ends meet.

Dear Father in heaven… we do not know what else to do. Show us the way in Jesus, the object of our faith, the guarantee of our hope and future glory in you.

And for those now in your presence, those who have gone ahead of us, we pray for their eternal rest, O Lord. We pray also for those they have left behind. One death is too many, Lord.

Rekindle our faith, direct our gaze onto your Son Jesus Christ who had conquered death and sin, sickness and darkness in his Resurrection.

Like Thomas his apostle, make us realize that we can only recognize him in his wounds from the cross.

And like Thomas called Didymus or Twin, help us strike balance and harmony in the many twins in our lives like our faith and doubts, joys and sadness, victory and defeats, glory and sorrows, as well as life and death, rejoicing and mournings.

Oh God… help us in this time that is so Dickensenian in every sense!

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times; 
it is the age of wisdom, it is the age of foolishness; 
it is the epoch of belief, it is the epoch of incredulity;
 it is the season of Light, it is the season of Darkness;
 it is the spring of hope, it is the winter of despair;
 we have everything before us, we have nothing before us;
we are all going direct to Heaven, 
we are all going direct the other way—
(adapted from "A Tale of Two Cities"
by Charles Dickens)

Help us learn the lessons of this pandemic and make us turn back to you in Jesus Christ your Son, who is our Lord and our God as we pray with conviction, “Jesus, King of Mercy, we trust in you!” Amen.

Easter, the intensity of Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday), 11 April 2021
Acts 4:32-35  >><)))*>  1John 5:1-6  >><)))*>  John 20:19-31

Today’s gospel shows us the unique intensity of Easter wherein God broke through human limitations by conquering death to open for us new realms and vast expanse of realities never before imagined (https://lordmychef.com/2021/04/04/breaking-into-new-realities/).

More than the “resuscitation” of a dead person, Jesus Christ’s Resurrection opened us to a new dimension and new possibilities of human existence that leads us all to a new kind of future now.

At Easter, Jesus broke out into an entirely new form of life with his glorified body that it is not just an event in the past we remember but something that continues up to now (cf. Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part II, page 244; Ignatius Press, 2011).

On the evening of that first day of the week, 
when the doors were locked, 
where the disciples were, 
for fear of the Jews, 
Jesus came and stood in their midst 
and said to them, "Peace be with you."  
When he had said this,
 he showed them his hands and his side.  
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.  
(John 20:19-20)
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Easter is not an ending 
but a beginning still continuing 
in our lives, in our time.

The Intensity of Easter

Easter is not an ending but a beginning still continuing in our lives, in our time. It is a reality so intense that even now we feel deep within us especially in the darkest moments of our lives like during this COVID-19 surge proving to be more dangerous and fatal than last year.

Its intensity comes from the Risen Lord Jesus himself who had conquered death and sin for our salvation. Such is the meaning of his ability to enter the room where his disciples gathered on that Easter Sunday night, despite their doors and windows were all locked for fear of the Jews outside.

This is also the reason that even the evangelists did not have to record so much his every appearance but remain simply noble and grand in their stories because adding details did not matter at all. Most important for them especially to the beloved disciple was the inexpressible intensity of the Lord’s appearances which he mentioned twice, first at the end of this episode and at the conclusion of his gospel account.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.

John 20:30-31; 21:25

Many times in our lives, the Lord is not asking us to be intense like him.

Only Jesus can remain that intense in his love and mercy for us. He only wants us to be there always, even if we come in late like his apostle Thomas Didymus.

Like Thomas, what we really need are silence and adoration before the Lord who remains with us, comes to journey with us amid the darkness and gloom that envelop us like these days of the pandemic as we now see with everybody posting on Facebook the need to be silent, to be contemplative in spirit.

Thomas Didymus, balance and harmony

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
 and Thomas was with them.  
Jesus came, although the doors were locked, 
and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you."  
Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands, 
and bring your hand and put it into my side, 
and do not be unbelieving, but believe."  
Thomas answered and said to him, 
"My Lord and my God!"  
Jesus said to him, 
"Have you come to believe 
because you have seen me?  
Blessed are those who have not seen 
and have believed."  
(John 20:26-29)

First, let us not take the doubts of Thomas negatively. Some accounts claim that his name Didymus or “Twin” in both Aramaic and Greek may refer to his twin characteristics of having doubts and faith at the same time.

Thomas was not an unbeliever when he doubted the news told by his companions that the Lord had risen. In fact, when he said he will not believe them unless he sees and puts his hands into the mark of the nails in the Lord’s hands and side was already an expression of his faith in Jesus. He already knew at that time that the Lord can only be recognized by his wounds from the cross and not by his face which is the usual and ordinary way of knowing another person.

Here we find Thomas having deep faith in Jesus though not so intense. When Jesus told him “do not be unbelieving, but believe”, he was not reproaching Thomas but more of exhorting him to cling more in that faith in him. And that exhortation applies to us to this time too!

Caravaggio’s “Doubting Thomas” from en.wikipedia.org.

Yes, it is not enough to see in order to believe for there are times that it is in believing that we are able to see.

But in this episode with Thomas, we are reminded that our faith lies more in our personal acknowledgment of Jesus Christ alive in us, is risen among us. Even if we can enumerate so many reasons for believing in him along with the proofs by other reliable witnesses attesting to us, what is most crucial is always our own, personal conviction that Jesus Christ is “my Lord and my God.”

That is the giftedness of our faith that John tries to tell us in the second reading: all of our sight and faith in God beginning with the commandments rest in Christ Jesus affirmed to us daily by the Holy Spirit as we slowly inch closer to our future glory in heaven with him in the Father.

Through the Holy Spirit, our faith in God in Jesus Christ is led onto the horizontal dimension of our relationships with one another in love as a “community of believers of one heart and one mind where no one claimed any of his possessions as his own, but had everything in common” (Acts 4:32).

On this eight day of Easter that signifies the continuation of Easter, may we experience the intensity of our Risen Lord Jesus anew in his Divine Mercy working in us, working through us.

We are not asked to be intense like Jesus who can break every barriers in life. He knows our weaknesses and limitations, especially our doubts and insecurities.

In his Divine Mercy, Jesus comforts us amid the grave sufferings we are going through in this pandemic surge, encouraging us to persevere in our faith, hope, and love in him.

Let us imitate the Apostle Thomas to always strike that balance and harmony of our faith and doubts, joys and sadness, glory and sorrows so that we keep ourselves awake and responsive to Christ’s calls to share in his wounds and healing especially in this time of the pandemic. May we keep the commandments of God, walk in the truth of the Spirit and live in faith and love of Jesus for others. Amen.

Stay safe and have a blessed week ahead!

Priest as reminder of life’s temporary pains and of God’s permanent love and mercy

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Feast of St. John Baptiste Marie Vianney, Priest, 04 August 2020
Jeremiah 30:1-2, 12-15, 18-22 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 15:1-2, 10-14
Photo by author, pandemic lockdown, March 2020.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Praise and glory to you, O Lord, and thank you very much for the gift of vocation to the priesthood.

Thank you very much for a wonderful patron Saint for us all whose feast we are celebrating today, St. John Baptiste Marie Vianney, the Curé of Ars in France.

How wonderful that we celebrate his feast this year on the first day of our return to Modified Enhanced Community Quarantine (MECQ) when public Masses are suspended in our province and other places due to the alarming spread of COVID-19 virus.

Yes, it is wonderful. Beautiful.

At first during last summer’s lockdown when we celebrated Mass without people, I felt sad; but today, I feel happy because I am totally yours, Lord Jesus. Somehow, this pandemic is teaching us priests most specially that life is a constant return to quarantine, to be alone with you always, dear Jesus!

Most specially, to remind us priests that the Holy Mass is never a show, never about us but always YOU, Jesus.

Like the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading, every priest like St. John Vianney is a reminder to the people that in life, there are always pains and sufferings. And most of the time, it is because of our sins and wrong choices in life, of turning away from God.

However, these sufferings like our pandemic and St. John’s French Revolution are all temporary.

Like Jeremiah, we priests are most of all reminders of God’s permanent love and mercy to everyone as exemplified by St. John in his life and ministry of hearing confessions for long hours each day!

Thus says the Lord: See! I will restore the tents of Jacob, his dwellings I will pity; city shall be rebuilt upon the hill, and palace restored as it was. From them will resound songs of praise, the laughter of happy men. I will make them not few, but many; they will not be tiny, for I will glorify them.

Jeremiah 30:18-19

As I reviewed anew the life of your humble and holy pastor St. John Vianney, I realized how our present situation is similar with his time: a period of sufferings after the French Revolution when priests were looked down upon, even maligned and hunted.

Yet, St. John persevered in his vocation, reminding us “The priesthood is the love of the heart of Jesus.”

May we your priests be reminders of your love and mercy, courage and faith in the face of adversaries like when you boldly spoke against the Pharisees and scribes, reminding your disciples…

Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into the pit.

Matthew 15:14

St. John Baptiste Marie Vianney, pray for us your brother priests! Amen.

Photo from Primera Missa Solemne by Fr. RA Valmadrid, December 2019.

To be known and still be loved

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2020
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> John 20:1-2, 11-18
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Today as I prayed on the feast of your beloved Saint Mary Magdalene, my sights were focused on your beautiful exchange of names on that Easter morning at your tomb.

It is so lovely and so deep, and very personal for all of us whom you love so much despite our many sins like St. Mary Magdalene.

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

John 20:14-16

You called her by her name, “Mary” and she called you by your title “Rabbouni” – what a beautiful scene of two people loving each other so deeply, so truly! You – humbly and lovingly accepting the sinner, and she – submitting herself to you as disciple.

You have expelled seven demons from her, you have known her so well even her darkest secrets and sins, and despite all these knowledge, Lord Jesus, the more you have loved her that you called her by the sweetest word she could ever hear in her life, “Mary”.

The same with us, sweet Jesus: every day you call us by our names, each one of us as a person, an individual, a somebody not just a someone. You love us so much in spite and despite of everything. We are not just a number or a statistic to you but a person with whom you relate personally.

From Google.

Help us to realize this specially when darkness surrounds us, when self-doubts and mistrust abound in us without realizing your deep trust in us, in our ability to rise again in you and follow you.

Teach me to trust you more and love you more like St. Mary Magdalene, to give and offer my self to you totally as yours, calling you “Rabbouni” or Teacher and Master.

Let me give up whatever I still keep to myself, whatever I refuse to surrender so that I may enjoy the intimacy you offer me as a friend, a beloved, and a family in the Father.

What a joy indeed to be like St. Mary Magdalene, fully known and fully loved by you, dear Jesus.

May I learn to know and love others too like you so I may proclaim you to them. Amen.

Healed by God’s mercy

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 17 July 2020
Isaiah 38:1-6, 21-22, 7-8 >><)))*> >><)))*> >><)))*> Matthew 12:1-8
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News at the start of COVID-19 lockdown, March 2020.

Our loving and merciful Father, every time I hear the siren of an ambulance or stories of people I know getting sick, I grapple with words in praying for them and those who take care of them.

I could not find the words what to pray for them except to beg for your mercy that whomever inside a rushing ambulance or my parishioner or friend or relative may get well soon, may be healed totally in their mind, body and soul.

There are just too much sickness and death going on these days, Lord, and the truth is, deep inside me you know very well my own prayer even if it does not pass through my lips – spare me of any sickness at least during this pandemic.

Thank you for your loving mercy, Father, that have sustained me since March, especially when I feel low and sad, even depressed thinking if I would ever survive this COVID-19 pandemic.

Your words today are very consoling and reassuring: you are more than willing to heal us of our sickness, Lord.

Like your servant King Hezekiah, I turn to you merciful Father on behalf of those stricken with COVID-19 and other illnesses in this time of the corona to give them a chance to recover their health to serve you and their families too.

I pray also for their loved ones looking after them to keep them faithful and filled with hope hurdling this sickness.

Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord: “O Lord, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Then the word of the Lord came to Isaiah: “Go, tell Hezekiah: thus says the Lord, the God of your Father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. I will heal you…”

Isaiah 38:2-5

Unlike Hezekiah who must have been so extraordinary before you, we are not asking any signs from you. Just heal us, strengthen our medical frontliners and caregivers. Most of all, spare us of any sickness in this time of the pandemic.

Father, we beg you in this most trying time of our history as a nation, that we may be filled with your mercy so that we in turn may share this same mercy to those living in the margins, that we may be more compassionate and kind to people so hard-pressed with life these days.

Yes, indeed, your Son’s reminder to the Pharisees are also meant for us today when we are so concerned with laws than with persons:

Jesus said to them: “If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, you would not have condemned these innocent men. For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”

Matthew 12:7-8

Amen.

Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

Bakas ng habag at awa ni Jesus

Lawiswis Ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-20 ng Abril 2020

Nakita lamang kita
kamakalawa sa balita
ng social media
karga-karga isang matanda
habang lumilikas mga nasunugan
sa gitna nitong lockdown
doon sa inyong tirahan
kung tawagi'y "Happyland"
sa Tondo na napakaraming tao.
Hindi ko sukat akalain
sa sumunod na pagtingin
naiba at nabago ang lahat sa akin
sa larawan ng naturang balita pa rin
matapos ito ay guhitan at kulayan
dahil kinabukasan ay kapistahan
ng Divine Mercy
at ikaw pala iyan, Jesus
aming Panginoon at Diyos.
Sa gitna ng naglalagablab na apoy
nag-aalab mong pag-ibig Panginoon
ang umantig sa pananalig
ng Iyong dibuhista at pari
Marc Ocariza kaagad nagpinta
gamit bagong teknolohiya
upang ipakita kakaiba niyang nadama
na sadyang tamang tama naman pala 
upang itanghal iyong Mabathalang Awa talaga.
"Panginoon ko at Diyos ko!"
ang panalanging akin ding nasambit
katulad ni Tomas na apostol mo
nang muli Kang magpakita sa kanila;
tunay nga pala
mapapalad ang mga nananalig
kahit hindi ka nakikita
dahil hindi itong aming mga mata
ang ginagamit kungdi aming pagsampalataya.
Nawa ikaw ang aming makita
mahabaging Jesus
sa gitna ng dilim nitong COVID-19
Iyong Dakilang Awa aming maipadama
sa pamamagitan ng paglimot sa aming sarili
 at pagpapasan ng krus upang Ikaw ay masundan
tangi Mong kalooban ang bigyang katuparan
upang Ikaw ay maranasan at masaksihan
ng kapwa naming nahihirapan.
Turuan mo kami, maawaing Jesus
na muling magtiwala sa iyo
kumapit ng mahigpit
hindi lamang kapag nagigipit
at huwag nang ipinipilit
aming mga naiisip at mga panaginip
na kailanma'y hindi nakahagip
sa ginawa Mong pagsagip at malasakit
upang kami ngayo'y mapuno ng Iyong kariktan at kabutihan! *

*Maraming salamat kay Marivic Tribiana (hindi ko kakilala) na nagpost sa kanyang Facebook ng unang larawan ni kuya pasan-pasan lolo niya sa kainitan ng sunog sa Happyland noong Abril 18, 2020.

At higit ding pasasalamat ko kay P. Marc Ocariza sa pagmumulat sa aking mga mata ng kanyang pagninilay at obra gamit ang Digital Art Timelapse na kanyang tinaguriang “Nag-aalab na Pag-ibig”.

Ang lahat ng ito ay para sa higit na ikadadakila ng Diyos na nagbigay sa atin ng Kanyang Anak “hindi upang tayo ay mapahamak kungdi maligtas” lalo ngayong panahon ng pandemiya ng COVDI-19.

At sa inyo, maraming salamat po sa pagsubaybay sa Lawiswis ng Salita.