Loved and touched by God

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 07 January 2022
1 John 5:5-13   ><}}}'> + ><}}}'> + ><}}}'>   Luke 5:12-16
Photo by Mr. Howie Severino of GMA-7 News, 2018, Taal, Batangas.

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately.

Luke 5:12-13
Dearest Lord Jesus,
today I pray for the many other
people living "full of leprosy" 
among us - people separated from 
the rest of us because of so many 
reasons like the poor and homeless 
and others living in the margins 
of the society, people we have 
ostracized because of afflictions we
are ignorant of like those with AIDS/HIV,
the drug dependents, the ex-convicts who 
could not reintegrate in the society and 
others we simply do not want to deal with
because they are different from us in color 
and beliefs.  Worst, even in our own circles
of family and friends, there are some people
we treat like lepers - persons supposed to
be dear to us yet we always hurt, betrayed
and unkind to.  
So many people these days
are living like those people "full of leprosy"
during your time who are not welcomed at all
in the society and in their family.
Use us, Jesus, use our hands,
our arms, our limbs, our total selves
to "touch" them, to make them experience
your love not just an a concept or an
idea up in the air but a reality one could
really feel like touching.
Let us be more loving, Lord Jesus, like you
who would love sincerely so that the lepers
among us may feel your touch and embrace;
so many people are totally unaware of what
is to be touched by God because so many
of us you have blessed have become so
selfish and self-centered, many among us
are turning away from you, refusing 
to believe in you, denying your reality 
as truly divine and truly human, 
a God detached from 
humanity.
Touch us again, Jesus,
awaken our senses to
overcome all the indifferences
and cynicisms afflicting us 
so we begin touching others
too with your love and kindness.
Amen.

Love and be free

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday After the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2022
1 John 4:19-5:4   ><}}}*> + ><}}}*> + ><}}}*>   Luke 4:14-22
Photo by Ms. Nikki A. Vergara at Victoria, Laguna, 2020.
Dearest God our Father, 
let us love, love, and love
so that we may be free;
the deeper we love, 
more we become free for 
you and others too!

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 John 5:3-4
How funny it is, Father,
when we keep on turning 
away from you, rejecting your
commandments Jesus had 
summarized to loving you and
loving others, thinking we could
be free if we separate from you
and your precepts; but, the opposite
happens every time we turn away
from you and your laws!
The more we become empty
and lost; most of all, burdened
with sin and guilt.
Deepen our love for you
and in you, loving Father
through Jesus Christ; let us
immerse ourselves into your words,
let us masticate your words
to extract its power that liberates
us in every here and now 
to experience true freedom
to love you, O God, and love
others as brothers and sisters
in Christ.  Amen.

Love and you shall see

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 05 January 2022
1 John 4:11-18   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[>< + ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Mark 6:45-52
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Dearest God our Father,
let us love, love, and love
one another so that we may
see you more in each other;
the more we love, the more we
see everyone and everything in
life.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us.

1 John 4:11-12
Take away our stony hearts
and give us natural hearts
that beat firm faith, vibrant
hope and unceasing charity
and love; perfect our love
to drive away our many fears
especially the fear of getting
hurt because of love.
Soften our hearts, Jesus,
to find you in every good thing
happening in us and around us; 
let our love be genuine and pure 
to find you coming to us amid 
every storm in life; send us your 
Holy Spirit to perfect our love
so we may have the confidence 
and vision of you on judgment day.
Amen.

An epiphany of love

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday after the Epiphany, 04 January 2022
1 John 4:7-10   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Mark 6:34-44
Photo by author at Liputan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.”

Mark 6:35-37
What a very moving moment,
Lord Jesus of how your heart 
was moved with pity for the people,
of how it is to truly love one
another as taught by your beloved
disciple John in the first reading.
To love is to remain with someone 
when it is already late and dark;
to love is to stay with someone
in a deserted place, accompanying
others despite the many dangers;
to love, most of all, is to give others 
with food to eat even while in darkness
and in a deserted place!
O dear Lord, the numbers of COVID
infections are rising again; dark clouds
are looming above us again; people
are back into panic buying while 
many are back to worrying where to
find their means of livelihood amid
another series of restrictions to control
the spread of the pandemic.
In this another surge of COVID infections,
may we be an epiphany of your love to
others by practicing health protocols,
being mindful of the well being of others
so that the love of God may be revealed
in us.  Amen.

We belong to God

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday after the Epiphany of the Lord, 03 January 2022
1 John 3:22-4:6   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.
Glory and praise to you,
dearest God our Father!
Thank you for your epiphany in
Jesus Christ; thank you for 
appearing to us in many ways
we so often fail to recognize 
because we have not been wise enough
like those Magi from the east by truly
searching you first before the things
of the world.
Teach us to keep your commandments,
Lord, by "believing in the name of your
Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another
just as he commanded us" (1 Jn.3:23).
Teach us also to "do not trust every spirit
but test the spirits to see whether they
belong to you, O God" (1 Jn.4:1); 
let your Spirit lead us closer to Jesus 
your Son for we belong to you, loving God!

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum by the Sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali, that what had been said through Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled.

Matthew 4:12-14
Whoever belongs to you, dear God
recognizes and obeys your Son Jesus; 
give us the humility to repent our sins
and be cleansed by your mercy and
forgiveness in Christ so we may begin 
this new year fully in him.  Amen. 

New year, new directions

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday After January 1, Epiphany of the Lord, 02 January 2022
Isaiah 60:1-6 ><]]]'> Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6 ><]]]'> Matthew 2:1-12
From Google.com.

Metro Manila’s main thoroughfare is called EDSA for Epifanio delos Santos Avenue.  Its namesake is a famous scholar from the province of Rizal whose name means “manifestation” or “appearance” from the Greek epiphanes

EDSA today may be considered as the epiphany of everything wrong in the country, from government inefficiency to people lacking in discipline and patriotism.  Mention the word EDSA and you feel sad and gloomy all of a sudden.

But, the Epiphany we celebrate today brings joy and jubilation because it is the manifestation of the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ to the pagans symbolized by the magi from the East.

After the octave of Christmas on January 1, Epiphany reminds us on this joyous season of Christmas that while deep within each one of us is a natural search or inclination for God, it is actually God who looks for us and eventually finds us.

It is always a grace from God that we desire him and his grace is doubled even tripled when we are like the magi who search and follow God in his “epiphanies”!

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?  We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.” When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3
The Magi with baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Source: Henry Siddons Mowbray / Public domain

Nobody really knows for sure where and who were those magi who looked and came for the Child Jesus at Bethlehem. They are called kings as attested from our first reading, “Rise up in splendor!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you… Nations shall walk by your light; kings by your shining radiance.  Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is.60:1, 4, 6). 

From this part of Isaiah’s prophecy we also got that picture of the three wise men traveling as kings from the farthest parts of the world of that time riding on camels to show how everyone, from the most most powerful to the simplest of men and women of the world recognize Jesus as the King of Kings. 

At the start of this new year 2022, our third year in this COVID-19 pandemic, we are invited to be wise like the magi to search for that Bethlehem where we could find rest and comfort, solace and consolation in the newborn king Jesus Christ. It takes a wise person to search for Jesus – and a wiser person to lead others to Him! 

The Epiphany of the Lord reminds us that Christ came to the world to be the fulfillment of everyone and He had become human like us in everything except sin so we can find Him easily right within us, there in our hearts where he is born everyday, where he dwells.

Every new year, every day is a new beginning in Jesus, a day of his epiphany leading us to him. The wise men coming from the East where the sun rises show us Epiphany as a new beginning in our lives, representing our inner journey in life to find and follow Jesus Christ. 

From Google.com.

It is said life is a journey; but, as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. So often in life, it is really the trip that matters most, the people we journey with as companions that make our life so meanignful.

What matters most in life is we keep on following Jesus Christ our light, our star.  That is direction, where He is leading us.  It never stops.  We just keep on following Him until we reach our final destination in heaven for we are all “coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). 

This direction we have to follow in life never stops for the discovery of God is not the end but the beginning of a journey.  And in this journey in Jesus Christ, we do not simply go as followers but are expected to eventually become believers too.  Matthew noted at the end of the gospel today how the magi “departed for their country by another way” (Mt. 2: 12) to show how they have become believers eventually of Christ.  Their lives have changed and must have never been the same as before after finding Jesus because they have believed, so unlike Herod and the experts at Jerusalem who knew everything about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem but refused to believed him. 

This is the danger with us today:  many Christians today are mere followers but not wise enough to be believers of Christ.

We all dream to be fulfilled in life.  And every lofty dream is always from above, from God as Matthew told us this Christmas the dreams of Joseph and now the dream of the magi.  It is said that those who dream with their eyes wide open are the real dreamers, the trailblazers who change the world.  That is because they did not only believe in their dreams and with themselves but most of all, they believed in God. 

On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, He is inviting us to dream and believe so that we may live fully in Him.  Every day is a new beginning to search and follow and believe Jesus Christ our light.  Today we are given with over 350 days to begin anew in Jesus.  Be wise.  Search Him.  Follow Him.  Believe Him.  Happy Epiphany of the Lord! Amen. 

Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauyan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

And the winner is…

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Friday after the Epiphany, 08 January 2021
1 John 5:5-13     <*(((><<   +   >><)))*>     Luke 5:12-16
Photo by author, December 2020.

Beloved: Who indeed is the victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ, not by water alone, but by water and blood. The Spirit is the one who testifies, and the Spirit is truth.

1 John 5:5-6

If we could all be aware of this wonderful declaration by your Son’s beloved disciple, O God our Father, surely there would be fewer disappointments and frustrations among us in this life, especially from that “rat race” where there are no victors but only losers.

As we advance in science and technology supposedly making life better and easier for us, making us more affluent to some degree, what a tragedy that we still do not feel contented as life has become more competitive in quantitative terms than qualitative aspects like love and understanding, closer ties and cooperation.

Life may be easier but, unfortunately we cannot see its great value that even on the personal level, there is still so much self-hate and self-rejection going on among us.

Help us, dear Jesus, to keep in our minds and our hearts how you wish only the best for us, our healing and our fulfillment in life like that leper you have healed in the gospel today.

It happened that there was a man full of leprosy in one of the towns where Jesus was; and when he saw Jesus, he fell prostrate, pleaded with him, and said, “Lord, if you wish, you can make me clean.” Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him, and said, “I do will it. Be made clean.” And the leprosy left him immediately.

Luke 5:12-13

Lord Jesus, let us believe in you wholeheartedly by embracing your Cross where you won the world for us with “the Spirit, the water, and the blood” that all testify to you as the Christ, the Anointed One of God who saved and redeemed us. Amen.

Photo by author, Chapel of Theology Dept., ICMAS, 12 November 2020.

Keeping God’s commandments

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Thursday After Epiphany, 07 January 2021
1 John 4:19-5:4     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Luke 4:14-22
Photo by author, 01 November 2020

For the love of God is this, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome, for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world. And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.

1 John 5:3-4

Sometimes in life I really do not still get you, dearest God.

Sometimes I just think this is part of life’s mystery as well as your own mystery as God.

Like today’s letter of your Son’s beloved disciple: he said to love you is to keep your commandments.

Just that. On the surface, how can it be love when there is subjection to commandments that often feel like burdensome?

And then, the beloved disciple telling us that your commandments are not burdensome?

It is difficult to be faithful to you, God! So hard to never use your name in vain, even in jokes. And look at how everybody complains not having enough time for self and family that they skip Sunday Masses!

If we try to dissect the seven remaining commandments, surely you know O God how hard we all strive to keep them from honoring our parents to not coveting other’s wives and goods!

Photo by author, December 2020.

But, again, O God, your words are true: your commandments are not burdensome but actually set us free! That must be the victory the beloved disciple is referring to because the more we break your commandments, the more we are bondaged by sin.

Jesus can boldly proclaim your words are fulfilled upon our hearing because he said them totally free of any inhibitions, of any fear, of any doubts. So free to truly love you and everyone of us.

Enlighten us, O Lord, that your commandments are all summed up in love. It is only when we love that we find the beauty of your commandments meant for us to truly love others. It is when we keep your commandments that we become faithful and loving in you through others. Amen.

Christmas: A call to openness and sincerity

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 03 January 2021
Isaiah 60:1-6  >><)))*>  Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6  >><)))*>  Matthew 2:1-12

Christmas is the greatest exchange gift of all when God became human like us so that we in turn can become holy like Him. For some, it is something so unthinkable even impossible but history proves Jesus Christ did come while our faith continues to affirm this reality daily when we continue to tell and relive the story of Christmas through every new year.

And this we can only do if we become open and sincere to God who revealed Himself to us in His Son Jesus Christ. No need to hide things from Him. He knows everything but He does not force us to come to Him. He merely invites us. Just like the three wise men from the East or Magi who came to pay homage to Him in Bethlehem.

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the days of King Herod, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage.”

Matthew 2:1-2

The meaning of magi and star.

After the Nativity of the Lord and the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God we celebrate this Sunday the third major feast of the Christmas Season called the Epiphany from the Greek term that means manifestation or appearance of Jesus to pagan wise men symbolizing the peoples of the world.

So much attention has always been given on the magi and the star that we sometimes forget that the stories in the Bible are not pure accounts in history that are factual to satisfy our curiosities; it is not that they did not happen at all but the most important thing is the meaning they impart to those reading the Sacred Scriptures.

As we have noted during our Simbang Gabi, Matthew has the most unique in beginning his gospel account with “the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mt.1:1) to show right away to his readers that Jesus is the fulfillment of the promise of God in the Old Testament. Recall how behind every name in the genealogy of Jesus is a story and history full of meaning and significance.

Matthew continues this in his story of the epiphany to show us again that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises since Abraham by using the story of Moses as his framework.

See how the story of Jesus resembled that of Moses, the greatest figure of the Old Testament: the flight to Egypt, the threat of murdering all infants in the time of the Pharaoh and then of King Herod, and the saving act of God in the exodus which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ’s Passion, Death and Resurrection.

See my dear Reader that in the story of the epiphany of Jesus is also found glimpses of His crucifixion and death: at His birth, the magi were the first to recognize Jesus as the new King of the Jews while at His death, there hung above Him the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews” with a Roman centurion, another pagan like the magi who would declare to himself, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt.27:54).

Here we find Matthew’s infancy narratives of Jesus are not only appealing to our sentiments and emotion but on a deeper level, these stories reflect how we Christians have always believed based in our experiences and faith that indeed Jesus is the Emmanuel of God, His presence among us who truly walked this planet and continues to guide us in the power of the Holy Spirit after His Ascencion into heaven, making Him truly a star above us guiding us in this life’s journey.

Unfortunately, for some people, it is something unthinkable and even impossible, choosing to live in their own follies and blindness like King Herod and yes, some Christians who claim to believe and know God.

When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet… Then Herod called the magi secretly and ascertained from the time of the star’s appearance. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”

Matthew 2:3-5, 7-8

Jesus calling us to our "epiphany".

I like that part when Matthew tells us how “Herod called the magi secretly” to inquire further to them about their knowledge about Jesus and the star. How ironic and tragic that they in Jerusalem were the ones who did not even notice the unusual star above them and worst of all, with the information and knowledge they have, not to have known the birth of Jesus Christ!

How sad that so many times, we keep on looking so far without even noticing those nearest to us!

Most of all, of our blindness and refusal to accept what is obvious, what is so clear like the love and mercy Jesus pours on upon us despite our sinfulness.

See at how some government officials are making a mockery of our laws and of their very selves, trying to cover up their wrongdoings, trying to defend their mistakes and sins not knowing the more they sink in their follies with all their lies and secrecies.

Keeping secrets can sometimes be needed for a good reason; but most often, to act in secret is often indicative of something sinister like in our story today, of Herod calling the magi secretly to snoop around and eventually launch his evil plot.

What a shame that Jesus, Mary and Joseph were never in hiding yet here were people secretly plotting something against them — just like inn our own lives, in ur own time when we try to deceive even those dearest to us, hiding in our so many secrets and lies that eventually come out in the open.

How sad that while Jesus keeps on revealing Himself to us but we still hide many secrets from Him as if he would not know!

This Epiphany Sunday while Jesus appears to us in His words and in the Eucharist, He invites us to open up to Him, to be sincere and have our own epiphany too. May this prayer help you in discarding your many secrets that are after all, very known to Jesus who merely waits for us to come to Him in our openness and sincerity.

Lord Jesus Christ,
in so many instances this past year 2020
You have continued to reveal Your presence among us,
in my own life, in keeping me safe from so many harm,
in healing my sickness, in providing for my needs,
in obviously being my Lord and my God;
You know everything in me, my many secrets
that I continue to hide from You.
Forgive me Jesus in hiding from you 
even if I know you know better than I am.
I have no gold, frankincense nor myrrh
but this Christmas help me offer to you
my many "secrets" I hide  from you and others
so I may fully experience your love and mercy poured out
since that first Christmas when you first came to us.
AMEN.

Ano hanap mo sa 2020?

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-09 ng Enero 2020

Hindi pa tapos ang Pasko
ngunit iyo na bang napagtanto
ano hanap o nais mo
sa bagong taong ito?

 

Tayong lahat ay katulad 
ng mga Pantas o Mago
na naghanap sa Kristo
nang sumilang ito noong Pasko.

 

At iyon ang tunay na karunungan
hanapin sa kaitaasan
ang kalaliman nitong buhay
na sa Diyos lamang matatagpuan.
Mula sa Silangan
tinuturing silang puno ng karunungan
kalangitan ay palaging tinitingnan
ng mga palatandaan sa buhay nagpapayaman.

 

Kaya kung mga Pantas tutularan
tatlong bagay ating kailangan
upang tala ay masundan
at si Kristo ay matagpuan:

 

Una'y huwag matakot
sa mga kadiliman ng buhay
sapagkat mga bituin ay maningning
kapag kalangita'y balot sa dilim.

 

Sa bawat kadiliman ng buhay
may pagkakataong binibigay
upang makapagdasal at magnilay
makagamay direksiyon ng patutunguhan.
Sa pananalangin dinadalisay
puso at kalooban upang sarili maialay
kapalit ng minimithing makakamit
magpapayaman sa katauhan.
Ganito ang takbo nitong ating buhay
ano man iyong gusto at hanap
hindi basta nakakamit
dapat magsumakit.
Ngayon pa lamang sa epipanya ng Panginoon
landas ng kanyang kalbaryo at krus
agad nang matatagpuan
sa siya ring landas na sinundan ng mga Pantas ng Silangan!