That sin called “adultery”

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent, 04 April 2022
Daniel 13:41-62   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   John 8:12-20
Photo by author, 2019.
For the second straight day,
we hear the story of adultery:
yesterday the woman was guilty,
today the woman is accused wrongly
but in both instances, your justice
and kindness prevailed, O God our Father!
But what is really with adultery 
that it is a favorite sin and topic in
your Sacred Scriptures, dear Lord?
More than its nature of infidelity, 
adultery also speaks deeply of our 
broken relationships with women:
like those two old men accusing Susana
wrongly of having a tryst with another man,
so often we have forgotten, even refused
to recognize adultery involves another man,
not just the woman.
Open our eyes, Father, especially the
"chauvinist pigs" and misogynists among us;
may the light of Jesus Christ your Son
enlighten the darkness within us and
enable us to see "where we came from" 
and "where we are going" so that we 
stop accusing and judging each other
of sins we ourselves are guilty too.

“You judge by appearances, but I do not judge anyone. And even if I should judge, my judgment is valid, because I am not alone, but it is I and the Father who sent me. Even in your law it is written that the testimony of two men can be verified. I testify on my behalf and so does the Father who sent me.”

John 8:15-18
How funny, dear God,
that the root of this word
adultery means to pollute
or defile when in fact, that is
also the root of our sinfulness
when we defile others because
we have defiled our very selves
first when we turn away from you
as our origin and destination.
Amen.

Standing up for Jesus, with Jesus

Homily at the Baccalaureate Mass by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Chaplain, Our Lady of Fatima University, Valenzuela City
Friday in the Fourth Week of Lent, 01 April 2022
Wisdom 2:1, 12-22   <*{{{{>< + ><}}}}*>   John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30
Photos by ANGELA WEISS/AFP | Robyn Beck/AFP from aleteia.org, 28 March 2022.

Congratulations, dear graduates of 2022 – our first batch to finally have a face-to-face graduation after two years in the COVID-19 pandemic!

Graduation is a high moment in life, specially at this time of the pandemic. You are a rare one among the rest. And so, like Mr. Denzel Washington, let me remind you my dear graduates and your families too that …

"At your highest moment, be careful, 
that's when the devil comes for you."
Photo from wikipediacommons.org.

Very true, my dear graduates.

What is very striking (no pun intended) is that it came from a celebrity star in Hollywood which is the bastion of everything worldly, and contrary to anything spiritual. So nice indeed of Mr. Washington who is not only a very fine actor but also a deeply spiritual person.

Imitate him.

After your graduation, there will still be more high moments coming into your life, so be very, very careful because the devil will never stop tempting you in order to destroy your life and crush your dreams

In your four or more years of studies and stay here at Our Lady of Fatima University, you must have felt in various ways the temptations and misleadings by the devil, dividing your mind, blinding your sight, telling you with so many seemingly valid reasons why you should just stop and go home, that nothing good will happen in this frustrating online classes.

Like in our first reading today, you must have felt many times telling yourself what the author of the Book of Wisdom experienced:

The wicked said among themselves, thinking not aright: “Let us beset the just one, because he is obnoxious to us; he sets himself against our doings, reproaches us for transgressions of the law and charges us with violations of our training. He professes to have knowledge of God and styles himself a child of the Lord. Let us see whether his words be true; let us find out what will happen to him. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him.”

Wisdom 2:1, 13, 17, 20
Photo by author, Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2019.

Praise God and congratulate yourselves for a job well done, dear graduates. You have passed the tests of your professors and teachers, and most especially overcome the temptations of the devil to destroy your beautiful plans of “rising to the top”, of becoming a doctor or a nurse or a medtech or a teacher or a seafarer.

Today we thank God in this Holy Mass that you have remained faithful to him, standing by his side in Jesus Christ at the Cross of sufferings and trials. Two things I wish to share with you, batch 2022 of Our Lady of Fatima University to avoid the devil from destroying you.

First is to always stand and witness the truth of God who loves us so much even if we believe more in ourselves, in our science and technology. How unfortunate that despite the world’s sophistications and advancements in the sciences, we still have wars going on, we still have abuses in words and in deed happening right in front of us like that slapping incident at the Oscars. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said in a speech at the beginning of the American involvement at the Vietnam War in the 1960’s that “Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men.”

Always stand for what is true which is our motto, Veritas.

Truth is not just an object but also a subject, a person when Jesus Christ said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (Jn.14:6). This we find when we examine the origin of the word “true” which came from the Anglo-Saxon “treowe” for “tree” that connotes something firm. And that is what is always true, firm and unchanging, never flimsy like lies and falsehoods. Like the tree, truth cannot be shaken nor moved for it will always be the same.

It is very interesting that from the Anglo-Saxon word “treowe” for tree came also its related word “trust” because where there is truth, there is always trust which connotes relationship. That is why the concept of “family tree” came also from the Anglo-Saxons who saw their family like a tree – a firm tree have deep roots with many connections or links. Wherever there is truth, there is also trust and relationships that lead to community borne out of commonality and sameness. Very close to this concept is the Latin genus from which came generation and gender that both refer to being of one or the same kind. Like trust related to true, the word related with gender and generation is generosity which is the act of giving that comes from knowledge of belonging and intimacy.

Hence, a truthful person is always a generous one, someone who can be trusted because he/she is always one with others. Never forget your beloved alma mater, Our Lady of Fatima University, your mentors and professors, your classmates and friends with whom you all shared the truth, whom you have trusted and shared common passion and brought you to graduation day.

At your highest moment in life, be careful, stand for what is true, think of others, be generous with them and most of all, stand for God by standing with Jesus at the foot of his Cross.

Photo by author, Lent 2019.

Second, to keep you away from the devil in your high moments in life after your graduation, do not forget the other motto of our dearest alma mater, misericordia, mercy and compassion. From two Latin words, miseor and cor that literally mean to move the heart, mercy is more than a feeling but something that leads also into a concrete action. As I have told you in some of my talks, the Jews have that concepts of mercy of the heart and mercy of the hand that must always go together. It is not enough to feel the pain of another person but that feeling moves you to do something to ease that person’s pain.

One problem in our world today is how people have absolutized truth, always insisting on what they believe as true even in many occasions what they believe is not true at all. Nonetheless, let us remember that only God is absolute. We have realized and experienced in the past that truth can be so painful. To witness the truth of God is to be merciful and compassionate by enabling others to be liberated from their painful realities in life – not to bury and cement them in their sad predicament.

Being merciful, being compassionate in this time is to move away from the way of the world that is based on fame and power, always competing with somebody else for more likes and followers. To be merciful like God is to find the enormous giftedness we have that must be shared with those who have less in life, with those who suffer most, with those who cry in pain in silence.

This coming Sunday we shall the story of the woman caught in adultery, at how Jesus liberated the sinful woman from her miserable state in life made worst by the public shaming her, wanting to condemn her in public. See the beautiful image of Jesus bending down, not looking at the woman, letting her experience God’s mercy, offering her a chance to become better.

In today’s gospel, Jesus dared to speak the truth of God despite threats to his life because that mission was very clear to him.

As you embark on a new phase in life with more high moments as well as more challenges, more pains and hurts, never give the devil a chance to destroy you and your lives. Stay close to Jesus Christ. Stand with Jesus at the foot of his Cross, especially when everybody feels to be standing more on their own pedestals of fame and glory founded on shaky grounds. The path to higher moments in life with Jesus and in Jesus is to join him in his Cross, of going down in love and humility.

During these pandemic years, God has remained true and merciful with you, with everyone, with us, staying with us and never leaving us in our lowest moments. Let us do the same with many others losing hope and meaning in life in this time of the pandemic by sharing God’s truth and mercy so that others may experience some joy in life. Amen.

From Our Lady of Fatima University/FB.

Remove my blindness, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week VI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 15 February 2022
James 1:12-18   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Mark 8:14-21
Photo by Philip Santiago, Lourdes, France, 2018.
Lord Jesus,
please remove the many
blindness I have in myself
that prevent me from seeing you
from understanding you
from following you.
Please remove that one
particular blindness in me
about temptations:  they
do not come from God nor
God wills anyone of us to be tempted;
temptations come from deep
within each one of us!

No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God;” for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his desire. Then desire conceives and brings forth sins, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.

James 1:13-15
Thank for this clarification and
reminder by St. James that 
temptations originate from
one's self in three stages:
desires, sins, death.
Please open my eyes, Jesus,
enlighten my mind, my heart
and my soul to see the sources
of evil in me to see where these
are leading me.
At the same time, Lord, 
let me count my blessings too
at how "God willed to give us
birth by the word of truth 
that we may be a kind of
firstfruits of his creatures"
(James 1:18).
Open my eyes, dear Jesus,
remove my many blindness
like your apostles who readily
jumped into conclusions and 
missed your whole point about 
hypocrisies of the Pharisees,
thinking you were worried with
their lack of bread, totally forgetting
how you have multiplied bread twice
to feed thousands.
Sometimes too, we are so blinded
with our high regard for ourselves,
seeing more ourselves that we no
longer look at you nor see you
as our sole sole reference in 
everything and everyone.
Amen.

When evil overtakes us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, Priest & Doctor of the Church, 28 January 2022
2 Samuel 11:1-4, 5-10, 13-17   ><]]]]*> + <*[[[[><   Mark 4:26-34
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, 25 January 2022.
Why do we always try to "imprison"
or keep you in a place, God our Father?
Why, despite our faith and knowledge
of your power and might, we insist on 
trying to entrap you in the hope we can
get away with our evil deeds or sins?
Praying over the first reading for today
on how King David committed his first 
grave sins against you, I could see myself
in him overpowered by evil during those
instances when I thought you were out
or far from my side not to see my sins:

At the turn of the year, when kings go out on campaign, David sent out Joab along with his officers and the army of Israel, and they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. David, however, remained in Jerusalem (while the ark of the covenant was lodged in tents while his soldiers fought the Ammonites, cf. v. 11).

2 Samuel 11:1
What happened with David that
after getting Bathsheba pregnant,
he tried to dupe her husband Uriah
by luring him to sleeping with his wife
that when it did not work, he had him
positioned in a battle to die and get away
with his sins?
How sad and so shameful when we,
like David, fall into a series of sins we
thought we could get under control
only to find ourselves imprisoned
in the darkness of evil.
Make us realize, Lord, the enduring
truth of your powerful and silent 
presence even in the darkest night
when nothing seems to happen:

Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God: It is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise, night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.”

Mark 4:26-27
"Grant me, O Lord my God", 
as St. Thomas Aquinas would 
pray to you: 
"a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you."
Amen.

St. Thomas Aquinas,
Pray for us!

God’s encompassing love

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
40 Shades of Lent, First Sunday, Year B, 21 February 2021
Genesis 9:8-15   +   1Peter 3:18-22   +   Mark 1:12-15
Photo by author, ancient fortress of Masada in Israel, 2017.

Lent may be the most sparse in outward signs and decorations like flowers in all liturgical seasons but it is the most dense in meaning and imageries. Although it is often seen as a drab with its motif of penitential violet and subdued music when both Gloria and Alleluia are omitted, Lent sparkles with profundity and depth leading to joy deep within if we truly dwell into its main message of God’s encompassing love for us.

Take our gospel this First Sunday of Lent this year taken from Mark. It is the shortest compared with Matthew and Luke who both give us details, but, Mark’s brevity is so precise and thought-provoking, too!

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him. After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1:12-15
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2020, Infanta, Quezon.

Life is a daily Lent.

Of all the seasons in our liturgical calendar, Lent is my favorite because for me, it captures best the reality of life that is at the same time so beautiful but in some aspects ugly, nice but painful. There is always that contrasts of light and darkness that indeed, life is Lent, a daily Exodus filled with trials and difficulties that lead to joy and fulfillment in God.

See how Mark shows this so well in his brief narration that begins after the scene of the baptism of Jesus by John at Jordan. Immediately after that, Mark tells us without fanfare, “The Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan.”

Is it not this is how life really is?!

At once after praying, after celebrating the Mass that is when you get into a debate with your wife or husband, son or daughter or siblings. Sometimes it happens while you are still in the church you get into arguments about parking. Right after you have resolved to be a better person and turn away from sins and its occasions, that is when your friends would come and ask you to join their “gimmicks” or that is when your “ex” would come or text you, entice you to go out again.

Photo by author, Egypt, 2020.

The desert is the image of that place of so many battles in life, where we cried in pain, where we were rejected, where we were hurt. Our life is like the desert, so hot and humid at day, so cold and freezing at night. Worse of all, the desert is our life because that is where we fight Satan who always deceives us with his many temptations that eventually lead us to wrong decisions, hurting not only us but those dearest to us, dividing our families, separating us from one another that in the end, we feel trapped in a terrible mess.

But, it is not that all bad because Jesus joins us in our battles and struggles in this life, in this desert that we find ourselves in a similar situation, “He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

Yes, life is difficult but it is in those situations we find its meaning and beauty. Though there are so many trials and sufferings, God never leaves our side, sending us angels like family and friends, even strangers who come and stay with us in life, believing in us, helping us, and most of all, loving us — right in the desert.

Photo by author, an oasis in the Dead Sea area of Israel, 2017.

Like an oasis where life springs abundantly, Jesus joins us in our many struggles against Satan by giving us the strength and courage to remain faithful to God, to experience fulfillment and salvation by giving us little pockets of Easter in the midst of our daily lent.

See that “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God. Amid the bad news of John’s arrest, Jesus began his ministry and mission of love and mercy for us all, It was in the middle of such disturbing situation that Jesus came boldly proclaiming, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

The same is true with us today as we enter the first full year of the pandemic that had altered our way of life so drastically, causing us so much pains in the many losses we have suffered in life and properties, God comes closest to us in Jesus especially in the Mass (https://lordmychef.com/2021/01/23/from-fishermen-to-fishers-of-men/)!

Most of all, as we shall see in this Season of Lent, even in the midst of sins and evil, that is when God comes closest to us to experience him and his saving grace.

Beloved: Christ suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the Spirit. In it he also went to preach to the spirits in prison who had been disobedient while God patiently waited in the days of Noah… This prefigured baptism, which saves you now.

1Peter 3:18-21
From Google.

Baptism as the key to Lent.

The key to understanding the Season of Lent is to see it in the light of the Sacrament of Baptism. Originally as a preparation to the mother of all feasts in the Church we call Easter, Lent was the period when candidates (catechumens) for baptism were prepared. That explains why the Easter Vigil we celebrate is too long because it was only during that time when people were baptized especially when the Church came under persecution.

In Jesus Christ, we are washed clean of our sins, we are cleansed and purified to get by in this life in the desert as beloved children of God.

He knows so well our human situation, our living in the wilderness that Jesus had to leave Paradise for a while to be with us here on earth, going through all our human experiences except sin so we may return to the Father’s home in heaven. Remember how we mentioned Lent as a journey back into the Father’s home: Ash Wednesday is the porch and every Sunday is a room we enter until we reach the Father’s inner room on Easter to be one with him in Jesus.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

In the first reading we have heard the story when God made a covenant with Noah and his children after the great flood which prefigured Baptism that cleansed the world of all the sins and evil. God had felt sad in creating the world when people turned away from him living in sins that he decided to destroy everything by sending a great flood. However, he found Noah as the only one along with his family still living uprightly. So, God asked Noah to build an ark where they stayed during the flood along with the different animals representative of every species. In effect, Noah prefigured the new Adam in Christ who came to be the new beginning of the human race, clean and without sin. After the flood, God sealed a covenant with Noah with the rainbow as its sign.

God added: “This is the sign that I am giving for all ages to come, of the covenant between me and you and every living creature with you: I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.”

Genesis 9:12-15

As I was telling you at the start, Lent is so rich in meanings. When you look on the Crucifix and find those arms of Jesus outstretched when he died on Good Friday, that is the new rainbow of his covenant with us we celebrate daily in the Holy Eucharist.

Remember when you look at Jesus Christ crucified, he is the rainbow promised to Noah by God that he would never destroy all mortal beings again.

Photo by author, Chapel of Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center in Novaliches, QC, 2015.

During the first Sunday of the COVID-19 lockdown that fell on the Fourth Sunday of Lent that was also my 55th birthday last year, we decided to carry around my previous parish the Blessed Sacrament so that the people may at least adore God after churches were ordered closed and public Masses suspended.

On the last leg of our route, it began to rain but I told our driver to go ahead with our “libot” until suddenly, as we turned to a long stretch of road in the middle of rice fields, there appeared over the horizon a rainbow! The sight made me cry as I felt God assuring me on my birthday that we can pull through this pandemic, that he is with us and would protect us, keep us safe.

And he kept his promise. Our parish had the lowest incidence of COVID-19 in the town of Santa Maria. From then on every Sunday afternoon, we would borrow the F-150 truck of our neighbor and I would carry the Blessed Sacrament around our parish, blessing the people who knelt at the side of the road. Eventually, it led us to innovations like “walk-thru” and “drive-thru” Holy Communion when I would announce the distribution of Holy Communion after our online Masses in front of our Parish Church and in some designated areas along the highway.

It was the most memorable Lent I ever had in my life when everything felt so real like Jesus in the desert being tempted. Yes, life is like in the desert where the devil and wild beasts attack us.

Have faith, be firm, and take courage in Jesus Christ for we are all covered and protected in his power and might, love and mercy. He is the Father’s best sign of his all-encompassing love for us sinners. Amen.

A blessed week to you!

Photo by author, 2019.

Email me at <lordmychef@gmail.com>.

Prayer for inner strength

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXIII, Year II, 07 September 2020
1 Corinthians 5:1-8    ///     Luke 6:6-11
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, 2019.

Forgive us, loving and merciful Father, for the many times we have chosen to be silent in the face of ongoing evil around us, when we unknowingly conspire in silence against you, against life, against justice.

Both our readings today speak about this deafening silence among us in many situations when we are so afraid to speak for what is good and true.

On a certain sabbath Jesus went into the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered. The scribes and the Pharisees watched him closely to see if he would cure on the sabbath so that they might discover a reason to accuse him. But he realized their intentions and said to the man with the withered hand, “Come up and stand before us.” And he rose and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good on the sabbath rather than to do evil, to save life rather than to destroy it?”

Luke 6:6-9

Worst than our silence in standing for life and dignity of persons is our “unwitting support” for evil and sin so as not to disturb our family and community.

Brothers and sisters: It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans — a man living with is father’s wife. And you are inflated with pride. Should you not rather have been sorrowful? The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst.

1 Corinthians 5:1-2

How true is the saying that “the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing” (attributed to both Edmund Burke and John F. Kennedy).

Photo by author, Jaffa, Israel, May 2017.

Forgive us, Lord Jesus.

Strengthen us inside, make our will and our hearts strong to stand for your Gospel specially when friends and families are the ones doing what is wrong and sinful.

Strengthen our firm resolve to be consistent in living our new life in you, Jesus, that is free from what others would say about us and free to be our true selves freed from sin, free to love and be faithful to you and for others.

Enlighten our minds and our hearts with your Holy Spirit on the actions we must take and words we must say to win them back to you.

Most of all, purify our intentions that we do this out of love for you and our beloved going astray. Amen.

Praying for holiness in the world

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Priest and Martyr, 14 August 2020
Ezekiel 16:1-15, 60, 63 >><)))*> || + || <*(((><< Matthew 19:3-12
From companionsofstanthony.org

“The most resplendent manifestation of God’s glory is the salvation of souls, whom Christ redeemed by shedding his blood. To work for the salvation and sanctification of as many souls as possible, therefore, is the preeminent purpose of the apostolic life.”

From the Letters of Maximilian Mary Kolbe, Office of Readings

Praise and thanksgiving to you our loving Father for a holy saint in our modern time, St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe whose memorial we celebrate today. His offering of his life in place of another prisoner at Auschwitz in 1941 was a fitting cap for his life of dedication in proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in words and in deeds.

Though there are no more gas chambers unlike during the time of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, the killing of so many people in various forms and methods continue to this day — right on our streets, in abortion clinics, in prisons, even in our homes and in social media where we spread toxins of lies that mislead and destroy many lives.

Inspire us like St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe to work for the sanctification of the world by sharing more of your love and kindness, mercy and forgiveness to everyone especially the weak and vulnerable to abuses and worldly influences.

Like this modern saint who lived during the harshest conditions of World War II, may we strive to make you present in the world where despite the ease and comforts of modern life, many of us are still lost and alone, feeling angry, empty, and confused.

Through our lives, may we fill the world with your presence and holiness by reminding people to return to your original plan of harmony and unity in your love as Jesus told the Pharisees in the gospel today:

Jesus said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.”

Matthew 19:8

Most of all, to make the world holy anew, grant us courage to stand for what is true and good, to remain standing at the side of your Son’s Cross for indeed, as St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe had taught us in one of his writings, “The deadliest poison of our time is indifference.” Amen.

Photo of Auschwitz from Google.

When we are the weeds among the wheat….

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2020
Jeremiah 14:17-22 >>><)))*> >><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 13:36-43

God our merciful Father, today we pray for our countrymen blinded by the many evils happening in our land today. For those who continue to defend the cycle of murders and killings to weed us out of criminals and addicts, for those who defend the blasphemies uttered against you and jokes against everyone, for those who continue to deny something is terribly wrong among our leaders.

We pray for them all, Lord. Open their eyes and their ears to the many sufferings around us: the cries of mothers losing a child, the pains of fathers losing their jobs, the frustrations of young people in finding a job, and the alienation of a nation lost in a circus where clowns are running the government.

Like your Prophet Jeremiah whom you have asked to tell your people in Judah and Israel how their sins have caused all their miseries and sufferings, enlighten us more to wake up our nation to the truth we have turned away from you.

Let my eyes stream with tears day and night, without rest, over the great destruction which overwhelms the virgin daughter of my people, over her incurable wound. If I walk into the field, look! Those slain by the sword; if I enter the city, look! Those consumed by hunger. Why have you struck us a blow that cannot be healed? We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead. We recognize, O Lord, our wickedness, the guilt of our fathers; that we have sinned against you. Is it not you alone, O Lord, our God, to whom we look?

Jeremiah 14:17-18, 19-20, 22

Show us the way, the path back to you, O Lord.

We have become the weeds among the wheat, trying to ruin everything.

We have become callous and numb with our sins, too, that others cannot believe our calls for conversion and renewal.

Renew us, O Lord, so we may listen more to your words that will guide us to recovery and conversion. Amen.

Photo by author, Sonnen Berg Mountain View, Davao City, August 2018.

Journeying into God in parables

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XVI, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 19 July 2020
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 >><}}}*> Romans 8:26-27 >><}}}*> Matthew 13:24-43

Our Lord Jesus Christ invites us today to join him into a different kind of journey that would take us deep into God’s mystery in our very selves through the parables he has started to tell us last Sunday.

Recall, dear readers, that parables constitute the heart of the Lord’s preaching.

We have defined these as simple stories with deep realities that must be cracked open through prayers and reflections to get its meaning. From the French para bolein that literally means “along the path”, a parable is likewise a bridge that leads us into something unknown to us before.

In itself, a parable is a journey calling us to walk through it into our inner selves to discover the many inner beauties that lie within us but we take for granted. Ultimately, as we discover these giftedness within us, we then uncover God dwelling within us.

This is the reason why Jesus would always tell his audience after narrating his parables that “Whoever has ears ought to hear” (Mt.13:43) to insist on them to go deeper inside themselves for their meaning.

And that is when we are transformed, when our lives are changed into true disciples of Jesus Christ.

Greatness in littleness

First thing we notice in the three parables of Jesus today is his insistence on the coming of the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God through him as the mysterious seed.

This kingdom of heaven is used interchangeably with “kingdom of God” that Jesus would always speak of in his entire ministry until his crucifixion is not according to our understanding of a kingdom: it is not about a territorial domain or the exercise of power over subjects using force.

St. John Paul the Second expressed it beautifully by declaring the person of Jesus Christ himself is the kingdom of God. No wonder, Christ would always liken himself and the kingdom of God with the seed being sown.

It is always good. It is for everyone as the sower scatters the seeds everywhere. And it is always small like Jesus who was born like any infant so fragile and even poor like most of us. He is like the seed we take for granted from which comes forth all kinds of plants like trees, big and small.

Flowers of a mustard plant from which seeds are taken. Photo by author, Israel, 2017.

Or most specially, like those seeds that turn into crops of wheat and shrubs like the mustard with leaves and branches where birds may dwell that describe the first two parables today.

Jesus then added a third parable of the yeast mixed into flour that leavened the dough into a bread.

Like him our Lord, we his disciples are also like the small seeds packed with great possibilities in God.

In all these three parables today, there is that element of smallness, of littleness that remind us how everything that is great always starts small.

When we come to think of this, we realize how we embarked on this great mission of making Jesus Christ known: it started like a small spark within us, perhaps from a single word we have heard or read, a simple inspiration by God through the most ordinary persons and situation.

Not only in things regarding our spiritual lives but even our personal lives when we recall those humble beginnings of our family and of our business.

Like a little seed or yeast, they just grew!

Now we are surprised, even amazed, how we have changed, how we have grown. Of how we are now reaping the fruits of our labors and sacrifices.

Most of all, how we have known and experienced Jesus Christ who fulfills our lives.

Weeds among the wheat

But not all days are bright and sunny. There are dark clouds that hover above us bringing storms and heavy rains that lead into floodings. A lot often in life, the darkest nights turn out to be the longest nights too.

And this is the meaning of Christ’s main parable for today.

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seeds in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slave of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Matthew 13:24-30
Photo by Onnye on Pexels.com

During my prayer periods this past week, I have been filled with anger and disappointments at how things are going on in our country and even in my personal life. It pains me so much why at this time of the pandemic when we have to go through all these bad things.

Last Friday morning before our daily Mass, we discovered the glasses shattered in our windows near the office door and at the side door of the church. There were scratches outside indicating attempts to unlock the doors inside and steal from the church.

After the Mass, I grew more angry as we inspected the damages, thinking so negatively harsh against whoever tried to burglarize us.

By night time during prayers, I remembered Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables where Valjean was caught by the police stealing silver from the good bishop who had welcomed him into his rectory with food and accommodations. Instead of pinning him down for his crime, the bishop told the police he had given Valjean the silver found in his bag, even chastising him he had left behind the other silver candlesticks he had asked to take!

The wheatfield owner in our parable and the good bishop of Les Miserables are both the merciful God mentioned by the author of the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today:

But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

Wisdom 12:18-19

Think of our parents and elders, our mentors or those we look up to for their wisdom gifted with wonderful insights in life called perspicacity which means “a penetrating discernment… a clarity of vision or intellect which provides a deep understanding and insight.”

Being perspicacious or having perspicacity like the wheatfield owner or the good bishop of Les Miserable means having a deeper wisdom that one can keenly see and understand things beyond ordinary perception following a long process of silent reflections in life.

Many times, our sights can be limited that we do not see the other repercussions and even ramifications of our decisions on certain situations. There are times we think only of finding solutions, of winning the battle but not the war.

Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

It is also along this line that Jesus added the third parable: the yeast is mixed with the flour to leaven the dough.

We are like the yeast who have to mix with others, including the evil ones to become bread that will feed the world.

We are the wheat, the mustard seed, the yeast thrown into the world to make a difference in Christ! We are not the ones who will change the world but Jesus Christ, the mysterious seed, the yeast in the dough who grows and effects the changes in us and among us.

Parables as inner journey in Christ Jesus

With Jesus living and nurturing within us, that is when we become fruitful like the wheat and mustard plant or leavened bread that we are able to feed more people who would eventually become bearers his in the future. That is how the kingdom of heaven comes into this world, when God is seen and felt by everyone through us

This we achieve in prayers as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading. It is not just reciting our basic prayers as Christians including the novenas we love to collect and follow through. The kind of prayer that St. Paul speaks here is a prayer guided by God’s Holy Spirit who perfectly knows God’s will.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos of kids she’s teaching on the values of health, education and nature at Katmon Harbor Nature Sanctuary, Infanta, Quezon.

Brothers and sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.

Romans 8:26

In this time of too much weeds among the wheat, of so many evil and sins prevailing over us, we can feel frustrated at times that make it so difficult for us to pray.

Sometimes, the evil and sins, or the plain sufferings we go through in our own family, in our community or at work and in school can be so overwhelming that we feel our prayers are useless, that God is not listening at all to us.

Then we stop praying, we stop journeying within even with weeds among the wheat. How can the flour be leavened if the yeast is not mixed with the dough to become bread or cake.

Remain in the Lord!

Pulling out the weeds will not solve the problem; worst, it may endanger us all too in the process that we become like our enemies in the end. Never lose hope in God who knows very well of the presence and source of weeds. Sometimes, these pains and sufferings from evils we go through from others may actually lead us to our being fruitful!

Evil and sins are a parable in themselves that can teach us so well in life if we handle them with prayers.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, Infanta, Quezon, May 2020.

Praying in the Holy Spirit is when we spend time with Jesus to reflect and crack open his words that come to us in the Sacred Scriptures and ordinary events in daily life through long hours of silent meditation and contemplation.

The more we dive into God’s mysteries in the parables he sends us in daily living, the more we see the beauty and wonder of life because our horizons are widened and get clearer.

Praying into our parables in life is like looking into a telescope or binoculars that enable us to see something distant within reach.

Like God himself.

And salvation as well as fulfillment in Christ.

Amen.

A blessed new week ahead of you!

Prayer in a time of “war”

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Camillus de Lellis, Priest, 14 July 2020
Isaiah 7:1-9 <*(((><< ] + [ >><)))*> Matthew 11:20-24
Fire at the Pandacan Church, 10 July 2020.

O God our Father, we are in a war.

A war between good and evil, between light and darkness, sanity and insanity.

It is a war long been raging within us that I fear must have reached a stalemate because of our indecision, of our indifference. Some battles may have been won but the war rages on because we have refused to make a gallant stand for you.

Banish our fears, assure us with your same words to King Ahaz of Judah when threatened with simultaneous attacks by his neighboring kingdoms:

Take care you remain tranquil and do not fear; let not your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands… Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!

Isaiah 7:4, 9

Sometimes, our faith waver especially at how things are now going on among us like divisions and confusions due to lack of clear leadership in government while many of us in the church are in disarray.

Make us realize that there is a day of reckoning for all our sins, for taking side with the enemies, for refusing to stand for what is true and just when Jesus Christ reproached Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum who refused to recognize his works of salvation when he came.

May we learn from the experience and lessons of St. Camillus de Lellis who was a soldier addicted to gambling but later converted to follow Jesus as a priest taking care of the sick, realizing the need for us to grow in holy charity. Amen.