“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.

Finding Jesus in Easter darkness

The Lord Is My Chef Recipe in the Octave of Easter, also Divine Mercy Sunday, 19 April 2020

Acts 2:42-47 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< 1 Peter 1:3-9 ><)))*> 0 <*(((>< John 20:19-31

Carrying around our parish the Blessed Sacrament every Sunday afternoon since lockdown began.

I have almost forgotten – and it is only now amid this extended lockdown – that I have realized the first Easter happened in darkness! We are in the same situation with the Apostles when Jesus rose from the dead.

What we need is to “quarantine” ourselves more, our heart and soul within to see and recognize our Risen Lord among us like during that first Easter.

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. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

John 20:19-23
Stained glass at the back of our parish church depicting the appearance of the Risen Jesus with Thomas, aka, Didymus. Photo by author, 02 April 2020.

Jesus always comes in darkness to bring light of peace

In our reflection last Holy Wednesday, we have mentioned how Jesus was born during the darkest night of the year to bring us that light of hope and salvation. The same is true with Easter when he resurrected in the darkest part of the day just before dawn.

Jesus indeed is the light that bursts and pierces through the darkest darkness of the world and of our very lives, our sinfulness. This is the reason we also celebrate this Sunday the Feast of the Divine Mercy of God in Jesus Christ.

Through his Passion, Death and Resurrection, Jesus is the only one who can penetrate through whatever blockages and imprisonment we have or we are into like sin and evil, pains and hurts in the past that filled us with so much guilt.

In his Divine Mercy, Jesus had come to give us our life back complete with the gift of freedom that we have all lost to sin and evil.

And that is why on Easter, Jesus gave us his greatest gift of all which is peace or shalom in Hebrew that means wholeness or holiness. To be whole literally is to have a good relationship with one’s self, with others, and with God.

Vatican II asserts in its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World:

Peace is more than the absence of war: it cannot be reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing force not does it arise out of despotic dominion, but it is appropriately called “the effect of righteousness” (Is.32:17). It is the fruit of that right ordering of things…

Gaudium et Spes, no. 78

Righteousness in the bible means justice that is also equivalent to holiness which is, to be filled with God, not necessarily to be sinless. That is why after greeting them with peace the second time, Jesus breathed on them the Holy Spirit, an imagery that reminds us of the story of creation when God breathed on the first humans to have life.

At Easter, we were breathed on again by the Risen Lord to renew our lives, to fill us again with God and be closest to him in our breath and thus enabling us to be free again from sin and evil, free for God and for others.

What a joy to read these days due to lockdowns worldwide that the Sierra Madres and Mt. Samat can be seen again from the metropolis or the Himalayas from India after 30 years due to clearer skies with less pollution. Or, the lions in Africa’s wildlife parks lazily sleeping without being disturbed by humans.

These are proofs that there is life indeed amid the darkness of this pandemic when Jesus restores life and balance, making everything new and alive again!

Peace and mercy, unity and mission

At his Supper before his arrest, Jesus prayed to God our Father that we may all be one – ut unum sint – like him and Father (John 17:21) are one. This would be partly fulfilled on Easter and eventually at the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost when the Church is eventually launched.

It is in our faith that we enter into communion with the Father in Jesus Christ and with one another as a community, as a church.

That is why it was a beautiful imagery of Thomas eventually joining them the following Sunday not because he lacked faith; he had faith that is why he came to see and experience Jesus. And that faith bloomed upon encountering Jesus again that according to tradition, Thomas preached the good news to India where he died a martyr by being skinned alive.

We have always said in our previous reflections that whenever and wherever there is faith, there is always union and unity with God and others.

Eventually, from every unity and community, there is always mission.

In our first reading today we have heard how the early Christians were one in their faith, always praying, that is, celebrating the Eucharist from which flowed out their mission.

All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their property and possessions and divide them among all according to each one’s need.

Acts 2:44-45
Easter in our Parish amid COVID-19.

In his entire life, we have seen that Jesus had always been clear in his being sent, that the words he had spoken and things he had done were not all his but from and by the Father.

Watch closely John’s narration of after the Lord’s Resurrection:

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. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”

John 20:19-21

After giving them the gift of peace and filling them with his breath of life to signify they have been forgiven for their sins and failures when they left him on Good Friday, Jesus is now drawing them into his great mission: As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

This is the defining and definitive characteristic of the Church, of any community of disciples in every age, most especially in this time of the corona virus pandemic.

Our mission continues in the darkness of COVID-19

Churches may be closed, public Masses are banned but the mission of proclaiming in words and in deeds the good news of the Risen Lord continues very loud and clear.

Detractors would always malign us, would spend for trolls just to ask “where is the Church in this time of crisis” but the people know best that we have never been remiss nor even flinched a single second whenever disasters strike anywhere in the world.

In the darkest moments of history in the past up to the present, the Church as a community of disciples of Jesus has always shine so brightly in Christ standing up for the poor and oppressed, the marginalized and forgotten, the sick and the hungry, those suffering in the most far-flung areas with its extensive networks of parishes and BEC’s.

This is also the reason why people always malign us in the Church about what we are doing amid the poverty and sufferings of the world: we work in silence because we are merely being sent by Jesus Christ. Like him our Lord and Master, whatever we say and do are not ours but the One who sent us, the Father in heaven.

We merely represent Jesus Christ who represents the Father and guided by the Holy Spirit, together we forge onto the darkness of this pandemic despite the many sufferings we go through, “tested by fire so that we may prove to be for the praise, glory, and honor of revealing Jesus Christ” (cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7).

This is who we are, disciples of Jesus sent to proclaim his love and mercy especially in the midst of all darkness.

This Sunday amid the darkness and threats of COVID-19, let us join the psalmist in his song, “Give thank to the Lord for he is good, his love is everlasting” (Responsorial Psalm , Ocatve of Easter).

A blessed week to everyone. Stay safe but keep working for the Lord! Amen.

Easter Vigil in our Parish, 12 April 2020.

Photos in the collage clockwise: Malolos Diocese Social Action Center, Inc. with Caritas Manila spearheading relief operations in Bulacan; Sisters from the Daughters of St. Anne walking through fields and mountains to reach out to our poorest of the poor; trays of thousands of eggs to be given away to fisherfolks in Binuangan, Obando by Fr. Ramon Garcia III; last two photos, beneficiaries of the 10-m Php worth of Gift Certificates given throughout Bulacan before Holy Week that included everyone even those from other faith and beliefs.

When darkness becomes light

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe, Holy Wednesday, 08 April 2020

Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

Tonight is “Spy Wednesday” – the night traitors and betrayers are put on the spotlight because it was on this night after Palm Sunday when Judas Iscariot struck a deal with the chief priests to hand them over Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Mt. 26:14-16).

The “Tenebrae” is celebrated in some churches when candles are gradually extinguished with the beating of drums and sounding of matraca to evoke silence and some fear among people as they leave in total darkness to signal the temporary victory of evil in the world for tomorrow we enter the Paschal Triduum of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil of the Lord.

From Google.

Darkness generally evokes evil and sin, uncertainties and sufferings. But, at the same time, darkness preludes light!

That is why Jesus Christ was born during the darkest night of the year to bring us light of salvation.

Beginning tonight, especially tomorrow at his agony in the garden, we shall see Christ entering through darkness reaching its climax on Friday when he dies on the cross with the whole earth covered in darkness, rising on Easter in all his glory and majesty.

Our present situation in an extended Luzon-wide lockdown offers us this unique experience of darkness within and without where we can learn some important lessons from the Lord’s dark hours beginning tomorrow evening of his Last Supper.

St. John gives us a glimpse into how we must deal with life’s darkness that plagues us almost daily with his unique story of the Lord’s washing of his disciples’ feet on the night he was betrayed.

Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in the world and he loved them to the end. The devil had already induced Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot, to hand him over. So, during supper… he rose from supper and took off his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel around his waist. He came to Simon Peter…

John 13:1-2, 4-6
Photo from aleteia.org.

It is very interesting to reflect how Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter dealt with their own inner darkness on that night of Holy Thursday when Jesus was arrested.

Though Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter are poles apart in their personalities, they both give us some traits that are so characteristic also of our very selves when we are in darkness. In the end, we shall see how Jesus turned the darkness of Holy Thursday into becoming the very light of Easter.

Getting lost in darkness like Judas Iscariot

Right after explaining the meaning of his washing of their feet and exhorting them to do the same to one another, Jesus begins to speak of Judas Iscariot as his betrayer.

When he had said this, Jesus was deeply troubled and testified, “Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me …It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I had dipped it.” So he dipped the morsel and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. After he took the morsel, Satan entered him… and left at once. And it was night.

John 13:21, 26-27, 30
Photo from desiringgod.org

The scene is very dramatic.

Imagine the darkness outside the streets of Jerusalem in the stillness of the night and the darkness inside the Upper Room where they were staying.

More darker than that was the darkness among the Apostles not understanding what Jesus was saying about his betrayer because they thought when Judas left, he was being told to buy more wine or give money to the poor!

Most of all, imagine the darkness within Judas.

To betray means to hand over to suffering someone dear to you.

That’s one darkness we always have within, of betraying Jesus, betraying our loved ones because we have found somebody else to love more than them. Satan had taken over Judas. The same thing happens to us when we sin, when we love someone more than those who truly love us or those we have vowed to love always.

And the darkest darkness of all is after handing over our loved ones, after dumping them for something or somebody else, we realize deep within the beautiful light of truth and love imprinted in our hearts by our betrayed loved ones – then doubt it too!

The flickering light of truth and love within is short lived that we immediately extinguish it, plunging us into total darkness of destruction like Judas when he hanged himself.

See how Judas went back to the chief priests because “he had sinned”, giving them back the 30 pieces of silver to regain Jesus.

Here we find the glow of Jesus, of his teachings and friendship within Judas still etched in his heart — the light of truth and love flickering within.

Any person along with their kindness and goodness like Jesus, our family and true friends can never be removed from one’s heart and person. They will always be there, sometimes spurting out in our unguarded moments because they are very true.

That is the darkest darkness of Judas – and of some of us – who think we can never be forgiven by God, that we are doomed, that there is no more hope and any chance at all.

See how the evangelist said it: “Judas left at once. And it was night.”

And that is getting lost in darkness permanently, eaten up by darkness within us because we refuse to believe in the reality of a loving and forgiving God who had come to plunge into the darkness of death to be one with us so we can be one in him. What a loss.

Groping in the dark into the light like Peter

Photo by author, Church of Gallicantu, Jerusalem where the cock crowed after Peter denied Jesus the third time, May 2017.

Of the Twelve, it is perhaps with Simon Peter we always find ourselves identified with: the eager beaver, almost a “bolero” type who is so good in speaking but many times cannot walk his talk.

“Master, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later.” Peter said to him, “You will never wash my feet.”

John 13:6-8

Here is Peter so typical of us: always assuming of knowing what is right, which is best, as if we have a monopoly of the light when in fact we are in darkness.

See how during the trial of Jesus before the priests, Peter denied him thrice, declaring he never knew Jesus while outside in the dark, completely in contrast with Jesus brilliantly answering every question and false accusation against him inside among his accusers!

Many times in our lives, it is so easy for us to speak on everything when we are in our comfort zones, safe and secured in our lives and career. But when left or thrown out into the harsh realities of life, we grope in the darkness of ignorance and incompetence, trials and difficulties.

How often we are like Peter refusing Jesus to wash our feet because we could not accept the Lord being so humble to do that simply because he is the Lord and Master who must never bow low before anyone.

And that is one darkness we refuse to let go now shaken and shattered by the pandemic lockdown! The people we used to look down upon are mostly now in the frontlines providing us with all the comforts we enjoy in this crisis like electricity, internet, security, food, and other basic services.


Bronze statue of the call of Peter by Jesus. Photo by author, May 2017.

We have always thought of the world, of peoples in hierarchy, in certain status where there are clear delineations and levels of importance, totally forgetting the lessons of Jesus of being like a child, of service and humility: “whoever wants to be great must be the least and servant of all.”

According to Matthew and Luke, Peter realized his sins – the darkness within him – of denying Jesus thrice after the cock crowed that he left the scene weeping bitterly, feeling so sorry. Eventually after Easter, Peter would meet Jesus again on the shores of the Lake of Tiberias, asking him thrice, “do you love me?”

Peter realized how dark his world has always been but in that instance when he declared his love that is so limited and weak did he finally see the light of Christ in his love and mercy!

Unlike Judas, Peter moved out of darkness and finally saw the light in the Risen Lord right in the very place where everything started when he was called to be a fisher of men, in his humanity as he was called by his original name, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love me?”.

Human love is always imperfect and Jesus knows this perfectly well!

The best way to step out of darkness within us is to be like Simon — simply be your imperfect self, accepting one’s sins and weakness for that is when we can truly love Jesus who is the only one who can love us perfectly.

Overcoming darkness in, Jesus, with Jesus, through Jesus

Though the fourth gospel and the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke differ in providing us with the transition from the Upper Room of the Last Supper into the agony in the garden, the four evangelists provide us with one clear message at how Jesus faced darkness: with prayer, of being one in the Father.

Even on the cross of widespread darkness, Jesus spoke only to pray to the Father.

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took along Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to feel sorrow and distress.

Matthew 26:36-37
Photo by author, altar of the Church of All Nations beside the Garden of Gethsemane, May 2017. The church is always dimly lit to keep the sense of darkness during the Agony in the Garden of Jesus.

Before, darkness for man was seen more as a curse falling under the realm of evil and sin; but, with the coming of Jesus, darkness became a blessing, a prelude to the coming of light.

We have mentioned at the start of our reflection that Jesus was born during the darkest night of the year to show us he that is the light of the world, who had come to enlighten us in this widespread darkness, within us and outside us.

As the light of the world, Jesus was no stranger to darkness which he conquered and tamed in many instances like when they were caught in a storm at sea and in fact, when walked on water to join his disciples caught in another storm.

But most of all, Jesus had befriended darkness and made it a prelude to light.

How? By always praying during darkness. By prayer, it is more than reciting some prayers common during his time as a Jew but as a form of submission to the will of the Father. Jesus befriended darkness by setting aside, forgetting his very self to let the Father’s will be done.

Bass relief of agony in the garden on the wall of the Church of All Nations at Gethsemane. Photo by author, May 2019.

This he showed so well in two instances, first on Mount Tabor where he transfigured and second in Gethsemane before his arrest.

In both events, Jesus showed us the path to overcoming darkness is always through prayers, of being one in the Father.

It is in darkness when God is most closest to us because it is then when we get a glimpse of himself, of his love and mercy, of his own sufferings and pains, and of his glory.

This is something the three privileged disciples – Simon Peter, James and his brother John – did not realize while being with Jesus at both instances until after Easter. We are those three who always fall asleep, who could not keep with praying in Jesus, with Jesus, and through Jesus.

It was in the darkness of the night when Jesus spent most of his prayer periods, communing with the Father up in a mountain or a deserted place.

On Mount Tabor, Jesus showed his coming glory while in Gethsemane he showed his coming suffering and death. But whether in Gethsemane or on Mount Tabor, it is always Jesus we meet inviting us to share in his oneness with the Father, in his power in the Holy Spirit to overcome every darkness in life.

And the good news is he had already won for us!

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News of Mt. Samat with the Memorial Cross across the Manila Bay following clear skies resulting from the lockdown imposed since March 17, 2020.

In these extended darker days of quarantine period, let us come to the Lord closer in prayer to. experience more of his Passion and Death, more of his darkness so we may see his coming glory when everything is finally cleared in this corona pandemic.

Prayer does not necessarily change things but primarily changes the person first. And that is when prayer changes everything when we become like Jesus in praying.

Jesus is asking us to leave everything behind, to forget one’s self anew to rediscover him in this darkness when we get out of our comfort zones to see the many sufferings he continues to endure with our brothers and sisters with lesser things in this life, with those in total darkness, with those groping in the dark.

Now more than ever, we have realized the beauty of poverty and simplicity, of persons than things.

And most especially of darkness itself becoming light for us in this tunnel.

May Jesus enlighten us and vanish all darkness in us so that soon, we shall celebrate together the joy of his coming again in this world darkened by sin. Amen.

A blessed and prayerful Paschal Triduum to you.

Relasyon, hindi emosyon – 2

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-17 ng Setyembre 2019
Relasyon at ugnayan
hindi emosyon at damdamin
ang sabi natin na pangunahin turo sa atin
ng talinhaga ng alibughang anak.
Kay gandang larawan ng Diyos
ang nakintal sa ating puso't isipan
nang ilahad ng mahabaging ama sa dalawang anak niya
na sila ay iisang pamilya, binibigkis ng buhay na mula sa kanya.
Ano mang kasalanan ay mapapatawad
maging kamatayan ay malalampasan
nitong habag at awa ng Diyos na ibinuhos
kay Kristo Hesus para sa ating mga alibughang anak niya.
Ganyan ang habag at awa ng Diyos bilang Ama
na dumadaloy din mula sa kanyang pagiging ina
nang mawika niya, "hindi kita malilimutan kailanman
katulad ng isang ina sa kanyang anak na mula sa kanyang sinapupunan."
Para sa kanilang kaisipan, 
ang habag at awa ay "hesed" ---
damdaming napaka-lalim gaya ng pag-ibig
nagpapahiwatig ng maka-amang katapatan at pananalig.
Nagmumula ito sa sinapupunan o "raham" ---
yaong matris ng kababaihan na siyang kanlungan
ng simula ng buhay, lundo ng katuwaan pagsapit ng kagampan
kapag napawi mga agam-agam, pagsilang ng bagong buhay.
Kapag umiiral habag at awa sa ating buhay
doon tayo buong-buo sa pagkatao
nagiging ganap at banal tulad ng Diyos
puno ng buhay at pagmamahal.
Kaya't kapag mga patayan ay naglipana
at pagkitil sa buhay ang nakikitang paraan
upang lunasan maraming kasalanan at kasamaan
nasisira ating kapatiran, di maglalaon, tayo ang mababaon.