To be encouraged to encourage

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week X in Ordinary Time, 07 June 2021
2 Corinthians 1:1-7   ><)))*>  +  <*(((><   Matthew 5:1-12
Photo by author, Nazareth in Israel, 2019.

Your words today, O Lord, from St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians are so encouraging, so comforting as they are truly meant for us, too, in this time of trials and difficulties due to the pandemic.

In greeting the Corinthians as well as other Christians in the region who were facing tremendous tests and sufferings, St. Paul prayed fervently for them by introducing the virtue of “encouragement” – mentioning it ten times that we can feel his deep concern not only for the Corinthians but with anyone in any period of time like us going through severe tests like in this time of COVID-19.

 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement,  
who encourages us in our every affliction,  
so that we may be able to encourage those
 who are in any affliction with the encouragement 
with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Encouragement or comfort is what we really need at this time, Lord Jesus, in order to strengthen us “in enduring the sufferings” (2Cor.1:6) we are going through. It can only come from you for it is a grace that enables us to live out true blessedness found in your Beatitudes we heard in the gospel today.

So many among us are getting weak not only physically but also emotionally, mentally and spiritually in this prolonged quarantine periods when our mobility is so limited.

So many among us have lost their jobs and livelihood, with still many others so limited in their earning abilities while financial obligations are piling up.

So many among us feel so uncertain about the future, finding it so hard to focus on whatever we have at the moment so we can make the most out of every opportunity that comes out from this pandemic.

Worst of all, there are some of us who are in deep emotional traumas at this time when problems arise in their marriage and family life.

O God, you know the situation we are into, even the mess some of us have got involved with due to our own sinfulness and carelessness.

Send us the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Comforter and Encourager par excellence for us to be encouraged to persevere and to strive, to remain blessed so that we may encourage others too. Amen.

Jesus is here, have no fear

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, 21 June 2020
Jeremiah 20:10-13 ><)))*> Romans 5:12-15 ><)))*> Matthew 10:26-33
Photo by author at Pulilan, Bulacan, January 2020.

Finally, today we can truly feel the Ordinary Time as we celebrate Sunday in shades of green with a new sequence of readings from the gospel of St. Matthew who will guide us in our journey with Jesus this year until the Solemnity of Christ the King in November.

Set after the naming of the Twelve Apostles who were sent to search for the “lost sheep of Israel”, the Lord now warns them of persecutions and dangers; hence, today until the next two Sundays, Christ will encourage his disciples including us to take on the challenges of his mission, assuring us of his loving presence and protection.

Notice how the Lord tells us three times to be not afraid of the mission:

Jesus said to the Twelve: “Fear no one… And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna… So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Matthew 10:26, 28, 31
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

The problem with our fears

Christ’s words today suit us so perfectly in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic made worst by the growing social unrests not only in our country but also elsewhere in the world that proves how the Lord’s mission remains unfulfilled in us.

Almost everywhere we hear reports of continued oppression of peoples in various forms of discrimination, disrespect and injustices.

But we do not need to look far to do our mission. We start with ourselves first — for we are the “lost sheep of Israel” in so many ways. All oppression and injustices going on around us are the reflections of what is within us that often result from our fears.

So often, the many fears within us push us to be selfish, forgetting others in the process. And that is when we start hating each other, creating this vicious circle of sufferings as the Jedi Master Yoda warned Anakin Skywalker in “Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace.”

From Google.

We all have fears. It is normal to feel afraid especially when threatened by a grave danger or threat to life.

Being brave, having courage does not mean having no fears; on the contrary, courage is facing one’s fears in life. Cowardice, on the other hand, is refusal to face our fears.

Jesus is asking us today to face our fears with him and in him so we can be free to follow him in his mission.

Facing our fears in Jesus Christ

What are our fears that lead us to anger and hate, that immobilize us to reach out to God and others? Let us examine them in the light of Christ’s reassuring words this Sunday.

“Fear no one. Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known. What I say to you in darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.”

Matthew 10:26-27
Photo by author, 2019.

Fear of not being loved and appreciated

One of the things I fear most is not being loved and appreciated, of being neglected and taken for granted.

It is a fear akin with low self-esteem or self-worth that make me afraid of others I deem as better and superior than me.

There are many contributing factors to this fear, mostly not of our own making like growing up in a very strict environment where we are not able to measure up to the expectations of those around us. Sometimes it is due to traumatic experiences that have truly hurt us inside and outside.

As I grew up meeting so many people from various walks of life, including those I looked up and admire including some personalities, I have realized that indeed nobody is perfect. No one has the monopoly of every good thing — looks and intelligence, wealth and health. We all need one another, and we are also needed. And loved as well as appreciated too!

We are all broken and lost, wounded and hurt; no need to fear anyone. What is most important is to always remember God loves us very much — no matter what.

At night before we sleep, do not just count your sins and failures; think also of the good things you have done, people you have helped and made happy. Listen to God thanking you for being so nice with someone. That is what Jesus is telling us to “speak in light” what he said to you in darkness!

Every morning when you wake up, be silent and still, pray and little, listen to God whispering to you the words “I love you… I believe in you” to inspire your for the brand new day. These are the words Jesus is asking you to “proclaim on the housetops”.

Forget those pains inflicted on us by others, in words or in deeds — they must be hurting too, feeling more unloved and unappreciated than us, more fearful than us!

Photo by Juhasz Imre on Pexels.com

Afraid of getting hurt, physically and emotionally

Another fear I always have is being hurt because I might not be able to take or absorb the pains. Worst, adjust to changes and disturbances that may result.

I was a very sickly child when growing up that I dreaded injections and other medical procedures. Aside from getting hurt, I feared that things could never be the same again, altering or disturbing what I have been used to.

But, as I aged fighting many battles in life, enduring so many pains and hurts with some help from family and friends, I have learned that pain is part of growing up. In fact, growing up becomes nicer with more pains and hurts that make us stronger and wiser with the many lessons we can learn. Most of all, pains and hurts have opened up many doorways to new beginnings that made me grow and mature as a person and as a priest.

Indeed, as the Lord had told us, do not be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul. It is what is inside that makes us who we really are. Replace those fears with Jesus and dare to get hurt and bruised that may destroy you outside but stronger inside.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Fear of getting lost, of being alone.

This fear has recurred in me lately during this quarantine period when I am all by myself in my parish with no one to talk to or share whatever may be inside me.

Sometimes it is so tempting to just vanish and die than be lost and alone!

Recently I celebrated a funeral Mass for a young man who committed suicide: he came from the Visayas last February to try his luck here in our barrio to work as a helper in a small candy shop. With the imposition of lockdown in mid-March, he lost his job and had to stay with his cousins who were also laid off from work. The teenager grew homesick, getting depressed later that no amount of alcohol of their nightly drinking sessions could give him a sense of mission that he decided to hang himself on a tree while his drinking companions were all drunk.

Sad that nobody had reminded him of his mission in life that he decided to just end it all. He had forgotten not only his dreams and mission but also his parents and six other siblings in the province looking up to him.

Even if we are in our worst situations in life, for as long as we are alive, still breathing, may we never lose that sense of mission from God because that means we are important, that God believes in us in entrusting us with a mission. Truly, we are worth more than a thousand sparrows that God takes care of.

From QuoteMaster.com

Experiencing God in the midst of trials

Life is like a rollercoaster: it is something we all fear but we still keep on riding because it is so fulfilling, very liberating, so exciting. It knocks out all the fears in us, making us so aware of life, of being alive.

That was the experience of the Prophet Jeremiah in the first reading: he would always complain to God of his own inadequacies, especially his many fears for the mission and yet, he could not let go of God’s call because he is so in love with him! He could not resist God like a rollercoaster.

I really hoped the lectionary had included the first three verses to the start of our first reading today:

You duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped; you were too strong for me, and you triumphed. All the day I am an object of laughter; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I must cry out, violence and outrage is my message; The word of the Lord has brought me derision and reproach all the day. I say to myself, I will not mention him, I will speak in his name no more. But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones; I grow weary holding it in, I cannot endure it.

Jeremiah 20:7-9


Jeremiah was a timid man who was also hypersensitive; yet, God called him to an impossible mission. And despite a long process of purifications marked by arrests, imprisonment and public humiliations, Jeremiah remained faithful to his mission to God that later cost his life. Eventually, the more he became great after his death that he is regarded a major prophet in all three major religions of the world, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

That is the joy of staying in love with God who is like a rollercoaster: he “seduces” us to come to him and then “scares” us, sometimes “hurts” only in the end to surprise us with greater things beyond our imaginations.

We come to experience God most and closest in darkness and trials where he is so real as another person to us. The key is to let go of our fears in Jesus Christ who was no stranger too to fearful situations.

It is nice to know that the greatest and holiest men and women of God were all like us — people so fearful yet brave enough to face their fears in Christ who never fails to provide us with the courage and strength needed in fulfilling our mission.

A blessed Sunday to all!

The kind of people we need in this time of corona

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Barnabas, Apostle, 11 June 2020
Acts of the Apostles 11:21-26; 13:1-3 ><)))*> +++ 0 +++ <*(((>< Matthew 5:20-26
Photo by Roberto Nickson on Pexels.com

Thank you very much, O dear Jesus, for the gift of your Apostles who became the foundations of your Church here on earth like St. Barnabas whose Memorial we celebrate today.

Despite his being a “Johnny come lately” replacing your betrayer Judas Iscariot, St. Barnabas proved to be a true apostle with his life of loving service to the early Church.

A Levite Jew from Cyprus who settled in Jerusalem, he was one of the first to embrace your new way of life, Lord, described by St. Luke as “a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and faith” (Acts 11:24).

What is so wonderful, Lord, is how he lived out the meaning of his name “Barnabas” which is “son of encouragement” or “son of consolation”, exactly the kind of people we need at this time of corona pandemic and of so many social unrests and issues happening.

Send us, Jesus, more “Barnabas” – good men and women filled with your Holy Spirit and faith who would encourage people to do what is good, direct others into reason and understanding through cooperation and collaboration to hurdle all these troubles, not divisions.

Like St. Barnabas who searched and encouraged St. Paul in Tarsus to join the Christians at Antioch in proclaiming your gospel of salvation to those outside Israel including the Gentiles, may we gather and inspire other people into working together in this troubled time instead of fighting each other.

May our words also bring more encouragement to people to rise above each one’s differences in color and language and beliefs to seek what is common so we can collaborate more for peace and common good like what St. Barnabas did in convincing the Christians in Antioch to welcome their former persecutor, St. Paul.

Help us imitate the generosity of St. Barnabas in selling his piece of property so that the Apostles may have the means to provide for the needs of the early Church and thus, consoled the poor and widows.

Most of all, like St. Barnabas who participated at the Council of Jerusalem, may we seek ways in resolving issues among us that may lighten the burdens of people saddled with so many concerns in life without diluting the essence of being your follower, sweet Jesus.

Lastly, like St. Barnabas, may we always have an open heart for reconciling with others, in setting aside past misunderstandings like his falling out with St. Paul to be one again in your most holy name, O Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

St. Barnabas, pray for us!

From Pinterest.

Prayer to encourage

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Tuesday, Memorial of St. Gregory the Great, 03 September 2019

1 Thessalonians 5:1-6, 9-11 ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 4:31-37

Photo by Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 31 August 2019.

“For God did not destine us for wrath, but to gain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live together with him. Therefore, encourage one another and build one another up, as indeed you do.”

1 Thessalonians 5:9-11

Dearest God our Father: Yesterday your words moved me to pray for consolation, to accompany those “alone”. Today, your words call me to “encourage one another and build up one another.”

How beautiful and wonderful indeed are your words, so powerful and fulfilling, indicating your very presence!

In this highly competitive world, it is not enough that we encourage people but also to build them up. From the Latin words “en” and “cor”, literally meaning to hearten or strengthen the heart, there are times that encouragement without community can be misleading and even destructive too.

Encouragement is going within every person, right into one’s heart like in your Son’s exorcism of a man possessed by “unclean demon” who “left the man without harming him” (Lk.4:35). From the heart, true encouragement moves outward to touch others’ hearts to form a community. Every time you heal the sick, Lord, people are moved to build up their families and community.

Encouragement is not pushing people to do and achieve things. Encouragement is bringing others closer to you through Jesus Christ our Lord. It is actually Jesus Christ who encourages for it is him alone who touches hearts and moves them to build up a person, families, and communities.

Like your servant St. Gregory the Great he encouraged not only Christians but also pagans to work for unity and to pursue so many efforts that built up not only persons and families, nations and tribes, monasteries and churches but most of all, an entire civilization now slowly turning away from you.

Fill us with more courage and wisdom, holiness and patience in encouraging one another to build up communities as we await for your joyful coming again. Amen.

The Grace of Encouragement

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Week X, Year II, Feast of St. Barnabas, 11 June 2019
Acts 11:21-26;13:1-3 >< }}}*> >< }}}*> Matthew 5:13-16
From Google.

As we resume the longest season in our liturgical calendar called Ordinary Time, you give us a wonderful guide O Lord Jesus Christ in your Apostle St. Barnabas whose feast we celebrate today.

St. Barnabas lived out the meaning of his name, “son of encouragement” or “son of consolation” when he became instrumental in bringing Saul from Tarsus after his conversion to join the Apostles in Jerusalem. St. Barnabas was the first to vouch for the sincerity of Saul’s conversion who later came to be known as St. Paul.

When controversy arose among the early Christians, St. Barnabas encouraged St. Paul to join the discussions at the Council of Jerusalem so as to encourage too the Apostles to accept gentile converts into Christianity without going through the Jewish ritual of circumcision for men.

Eventually after that meeting, St. Barnabas encouraged St. Paul to direct their missionary efforts to the Gentiles that helped spread Christianity throughout the world.

When things went so wrong between him and St. Paul later due to their companion Mark at their second missionary journey that they have to part ways, eventually later before the death of St. Paul in Rome, St. Barnabas was able to encourage them to reconcile and let go of their differences before.

Grant us, Jesus Christ, the same gift of encouragement of St. Barnabas so we may be willing to transcend our weaknesses and sinfulness to cooperate with others to fulfill your work and mission.

We pray also for those losing hope, being discouraged by so many failures and events in their lives that push them to give up and abandon all your plans and dreams for them. Fill them with your Holy Spirit to be encouraged to persevere and to trust in you. Amen.

People with Disabilities being encouraged by Christian groups in Jordan to work in mosaic shops so they could hone their skills and earn for their family. Photo by author, May 2019.