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!

Love drives out fear

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Wednesday after Epiphany of the Lord, 08 January 2019

1 John 4:11-18 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Mark 6:45-52

Flowers at our Altar, 05 January 2020. Photo by author.

We have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us. God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him. In this is love brought to perfection among us, that we have confidence on the day of judgment because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment, and so one who fears is not yet perfect in love.

1 John 4:16-18

How true are the words and reflection of your beloved disciple, Lord Jesus Christ! Indeed, when there is fear, that is when we refuse to love or at least fail to love.

When we are afraid of losing honor and losing possessions, when we are afraid of being disadvantaged and being out of the limelight, when we are afraid of being forgotten and unrecognized… those are the moments we fail to love because we cannot let go of our self, of our ego.

Teach us, Jesus, to take into our hearts your manifestations of your presence and power, of your love and concern for us so that our fears of being forsaken may be lessened.

Give us the grace to face our fears especially in moments of darkness and trials when we act like your disciples who cannot recognize your coming by walking on water at the middle of a storm at the sea.

Refresh our memories, Jesus, to recall those many moments you have come to our rescue to save us from so many problems and situations in the past so we may now completely trust you and give you our very selves in loving service.

Help us to let go and let God by dying to ourselves. Amen.

“Waiting for Love” by Sergio Mendes and Brazil ‘77

waiting for love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 06 January 2019

            It’s the first Sunday of 2019 and we are celebrating in the Church today the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord used to be known as feast of the Three Kings.  From the Greek word epiphanes that means appearance or manifestation, today’s celebration reminds us that Jesus came for everyone especially those forgotten and unloved, the poor and marginalized, the sinner and those lost.  Most of all, Christ became human like us except in sin so that it would be easier for us to find God.  In fact, it is actually God who searches for us and always finds us.  Whenever we think we are looking for God and have found Him, it was actually God who first sought us and found us.

            While praying over the scriptures for today’s celebration, one song kept playing at the back of my mind, “Waiting for Love” by Sergio Mendes and the Brazil ’77.  Composed by Randy McNeill, it is from their 1974 album “Vintage 74” that features for the second time around the vocals by Gracinha Leporace and Bonnie Bowden.  It is a very beautiful song with a haunting music because it is so true with many of us who are so afraid to love, afraid to follow our stars, and perhaps afraid to fail and get hurt in life.  “Waiting for Love” challenges us like the Epiphany if who among us are wise enough to recognize and follow Jesus appearing daily in our lives in many occasions and circumstances?  Surely, there were other people who have seen the bright star of Bethlehem when Christ was born but why only the three magi from the East came to follow it and search for Jesus?  Matthew tells us how the whole Jerusalem along with Herod were greatly troubled upon hearing the magi looking for the newborn king of the Jews as indicated by the bright star!  This is what the song “Waiting for Love” is saying, of how often that “(And) it seems I’ve spent my whole life, Waiting for love, And when it comes, I always run away.”  This 2019, stop being “afraid of being close where I need to be the most” – follow and believe in the bright star of Jesus Christ!  Cheers to more love this 2019!

Photo from Google.

Epiphany: New Beginnings in Christ

wise-men-still-seek-him-1-728
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe
Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, 06 January 2019
Isaiah 60:1-6///Ephesians 3:2-3, 5-6///Matthew 2:1-12

            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 that is 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. On the other hand, 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, it is celebrated within this joyous season to remind us 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.  Though it is God who appears to us or “epiphanies” to us, we have to be like the magi who must look and find Him as well as lead others to Him too!

            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.” (Mt. 2:1-2)

            It takes a wise person to search for Jesus – and a wiser person to lead others to Him!  How sad that so many people today feel so lost and could not find the right directions to Jesus because as we have reflected last Christmas, there are so many of us who pretend to be the Christ.  When somebody comes to us, seeking comfort or counsel or simply company, do they find the newborn King in us?  When people come to our homes, do they experience Jesus in our family?  When people come to pray and celebrate the sacraments in our parish or chapel, do they find Christ present there among the people and the place itself?  How sad that so many churches are desecrated in the name of finding Christ among the people that we have allowed everything and everyone to disregard their sanctity with so much pomp and pageantry that tend to manifest more the pride and ego, or insecurities of those in charge of these sacred places.  People continue to search for that Bethlehem where they could find rest and comfort, solace and consolation in the newborn king Jesus Christ. 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.  There are many symbolisms that may be gleaned from these wise men representing us today.

            They are sometimes called as 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 travelling as kings from the farthest parts of the world of that time riding on camels to show that even the most powerful men of the world recognize Jesus as the King of Kings.  In our responsorial psalm today, we heard ancient places that extend from the extreme west like Tarshish which is in Tartessos, Spain up to the isles off the coast of Africa and the Middle East which is part of Asia to represent rulers of the world who would come to worship Christ.  Notice how these places mentioned in Isaiah and Psalms refer to the three continents known during that time, namely, Africa, Asia, and Europe symbolizing the whole world coming to Christ.  Some Church Fathers even preached that the three kings symbolize the three stages of our life where Christ leads and guides us:  youth, maturity and old age.  In whatever state or stage of life we are, true wisdom and peace can only be found in Christ Jesus regardless of our differences.

            But above all of these we find that with the wise men coming from the East where the sun rises is that they show us the Epiphany as a new beginning in our lives.  The magi represent our inner journey in life to find and follow Jesus Christ.  Last year, I have dwelt a lot in that realization that life is more of a directional than a destination.  What matters most in life is that 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), meaning 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.  That is their big advantage and difference with Herod and the experts of Jerusalem who knew everything about the Messiah being born in Bethlehem but refused to believe Him.  This is the danger with us today:  many Christians today are mere followers but not wise enough to be believers of Christ.

            Like those young people aspiring to follow their stars at GMA-7’s talent search program “StarStruck”, we also need to dream, believe,and survive.  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. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ng San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan

*Photos from Google.

starstruck