Christmas is recognizing the face of Christ in everyone

The Lord Is My Chef Christmas Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Octave of Christmas, Feast of Holy Innocents, Martyrs, 28 December 2022
1 John 1:5-2:2     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Matthew 2:13-18

Beloved: This is the message that we have heard from Jesus Christ and proclaim to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” while we continue to walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in darkness, we lie and do not act in truth. But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, then we have fellowship with one another, and the Blood of his Son Jesus cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:5-7
God our loving Father,
thank you for sending us your Son
Jesus Christ, the light of the world;
we have experienced many times in life
especially during these three years of pandemic
that no matter how dark our lives may be,
for as long as we walk in Jesus Christ,
there is always light.
Forgive us, Father,
that many times we look for other lights;
we are so tempted and delighted in 
following the lights of the world with its
vast array of colors that blind our eyes
or with klieg lights that put us on spot like stars
yet leave us groping in emptiness after;
forgive us, Father, in following other lights 
that turn us away from one another and you;
until now, many of us act and think like Herod
and the experts of Jerusalem who refuse to
follow the light of Jesus that make us recognize
you on the face of one another.
Let the light of Jesus born on Christmas
enlighten our minds and our hearts to see
and follow you, O God our Father,
found on the face of every child still in the womb,
on the face of every child who must be cared and protected,
on the face of every woman, especially mothers
and grandmothers forgotten after nurturing us,
on the face of every dad especially those working 
away from family and loved ones, rarely seen
crying and rejoicing for their loved ones,
on the face of young people so lost with no one
to listen to them, be with them, assure them of love,
on the face of our health workers considered heroes
yet still taken for granted and even forgotten,
on the face of farmers and fishermen marked with
so many lines of hardships and sufferings under the sun
to feed us yet totally left on their own,
on the face of others in the margins and the disadvantaged,
those forgotten by the society and unfortunately by families:
this Christmas, call us into our own Egypt,
into a retreat and soul-searching for enlightenment
to find your face anew within us
so we may find you on one another.
Amen.

Finding Jesus, showing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Second Sunday in Advent, Cycle A, 04 December 2022
Isaiah 11:1-10 ><}}}*> Romans 15:4-9 ><}}}*> Matthew 3:1-12
Photo by Ezra Acayan/Getty Images, 09 February 2020, Baclaran Church.

Many years from now, future generations will surely discuss these years of our COVID-19 pandemic, with everyone talking about the face masks we wore. Imagine your great grandchildren repeatedly asking their parents why we were covering our faces during this time.

But, these face masks were also the signs of blessing during this pandemic, teaching us to look onto the face of one another, to recognize each one as brother and sister in Christ. I believe these face masks are reminders from God of how we have forgotten to look and value each one as persons to be loved and cared for, respected and protected.

What a beautiful sight when people meet, exchanging glances, adjusting their glasses and face masks to recognize each one again!

In the Book of Genesis, we are told how God created us in his image and likeness that remind us of his “face” even if we know God is spirit. Face means more than the physical face of the person. It reveals in the most undeniable manner one’s state or condition, of what is in him/her. When a person is filled with goodness and love, joy and contentment or, bitterness and hate, evil and sin, we say it is “written all over his/her face”.

Remember Mang Dodong of Caloocan City who was detained for almost a month in Navotas for not having proper ID’s during the lockdown of March 2020 after he tried to buy fish in order to sell in their neighborhood? At the same time when it happened, there was the shameless news of police throwing a birthday bash to their chief in total disregard of the protocols? The injustice against the poor prevailing then and now was all written in Mang Dodong’s face in the news.

Mang Dodong of Caloocan City, photo by Mr. Vincent Go, May 2020.

Here lies the challenge of Advent 2022, the first face-to-face Christmas we shall have in two years since the pandemic when we have to cover our faces with face masks: have I shown God with others on my face? Or maybe, the better question should be, do I see the face of God in the people I meet?

This Second Sunday of Advent, the gospel invites us if like John the Baptist, do we see Jesus Christ coming among us? Do we see him in ourselves and in others?

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.

Matthew 3:1-3
“St. John the Baptist Preaching in the Wilderness” by German painter Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-1779) from commons.wikimedia.org.

John is our second guide during Advent next to the Prophet Isaiah. John did not only see the coming of Christ but he also showed the Christ had come.

Why did people come to listen to him and be baptized from all over Israel at that time?

His preaching must be so powerful and convincing because people must have also seen in him Christ’s coming. In fact, people of his time thought he was already the Messiah everyone was awaiting. But John was very clear in his preaching that he was not the One.

Such was the power of John’s preaching. Everyone believed him because he did not merely point to the coming of Christ but showed them too Christ already present in him. No wonder, he would be the first to die for Jesus and like Jesus by standing for what is true and good.

How was John able to do this?

Aside from the power of the Holy Spirit that came upon him while still in his mother’s womb during Mary’s visitation, John went to a sort of quarantine too – an Advent – when he left the comforts of his affluent family to live a simple life in the desert.

John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey.

Matthew 3:4

Last Sunday, we have reflected that Advent is a Sabbath when we rest to be breathed on by God, to be filled with God and his Spirit by first emptying ourselves of our sins and pride. Most of all, in coming to the wilderness empty and simple, John showed the importance of prayer, of relying solely to God. It was prayer that sustained John in the desert and it is prayer that would sustain us during this Advent. In fact, we need to handle life with prayer in order to see Christ coming and most of all, to show Christ to others.

In calling for conversion, John challenged the people of his time too to bear fruits in their efforts of seeing the coming Messiah. All these emptying and sacrifices and being breathed on by God must always be evident not only for everyone to see but for each one to truly experience Christ’s coming.

A painting based on Is.11:1-10 called “Peaceable Kingdom” by American Edward Hicks, a Quaker pastor (1780-1849).

In the first reading, Isaiah reminds us that Advent is a time also of healing when we learn to be small again, even to die in our selves to give way for the coming of the Lord.

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him… Not by appearance shall he judge, nor by hearsay shall he decide, but he shall judge the poor with justice, and decide aright for the land’s afflicted… Justice shall be the band around his waist, and faithfulness a belt upon his hips. Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; the calf and young lion shall browse together, with a little child to guide them. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, together their young shall rest; the lion shall eat hay like ox. The baby shall play by the cobra’s den, and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair. There shall be no harm or ruin on my holy mountain; for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the Lord, as water covers the sea.

Isaiah 11:1-2, 3, 4, 5-9

This for me is one of the loveliest scenes in the Old Testament: aside from the poetry of Isaiah, imagine how God envisions for us a “peaceable kingdom” where humans and animals live together in harmony, when there would be no more harm or ruin on everyone!

So beautiful!

And so possible if we can be like John the Baptist with our eyes seeing more beyond the physical realities of this world by being small again like the shoot, even of dying to one’s self like a stump.

It is only in our littleness, in our barrenness and death can we truly see and find Jesus. But, the moment we see Christ in us, it is no longer difficult to recognize him on others as well as find him in all creation. If we could fine tune our eyes to Jesus and live in one accord with God and everyone as St. Paul calls us in the second reading, then Christ becomes present among us in the world with his peace.

Let us pray on this Second Sunday of Advent that we not only see Jesus coming but also show him present in us and among us so that when we go to our places of work, we do not just “earn a living” but also work on building the kingdom of God here on earth.

Let us pray that beginning this second Sunday of Advent that we not only see Jesus but also show him present in us and among us so that whenever we post on social media, we also build relationships in Christ.

Have a blessed week everyone!

Let us pray on this Second Sunday of Advent that the next time we give donations and help to people in need, it is Jesus whom we find in them so that we go the extra mile in our efforts to uplift them and truly make a “shoot sprout forth from the stump” of this dying earth so that the bud of God’s kingdom may finally blossom in us. Amen.

God living among us

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Thirty-Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, 25 November 2022
Revelation 20:1-4, 11-22:2   ><]]]'> + ><]]]'> + ><]]]'>   Luke 21:29-33 
God our loving Father,
your words today spoken both by
John and your Son Jesus Christ
are frightening at first hearing;
but, as we dwell more on your words,
we are comforted because your promised
end of the world is the beginning
of "new heaven and new earth"
(Revelation 21:1-2);
it has started coming already
in the birth of Jesus Christ 
as we join the psalmist
in proclaiming this wonderful truth,
"Here God lives among his people"
(responsorial psalm).
"My soul yearns and pines for 
the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my flesh 
cry out for the living God.
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest in which
she puts her young ---
your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my king and my God!
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
Blessed the men whose strength
you are!"
(Psalm 84:3, 4, 5, 6)
Despite the many trials
and sufferings we have been going 
through, you never ceased to
guide us to life and fulfillment
in you through Jesus Christ.
Make us aware and conscious
of your presence among our brothers
and sisters especially those in pain
and in the margins;
may our eyes,
our minds,
and our hearts
be open to your presence
in everyone we meet inasmuch
as we can read the signs of 
the fig tree and other trees
(Luke 21:29-30);
may we stop for a while
in our tasks and duties
to feel each one's humanity
and personhood to find you
and experience you.
Amen.

The “ins and outs” to the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XVII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 28 July 2021
Exodus 34:29-35   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Matthew 13:44-46
Photo by author, Church of Dominus Flevit overlooking Jerusalem, 2017.
How lovely are your words today,
God our loving Father
leading us the way closer to you
through your Son Jesus Christ!
So many times, you lead us to
many detours in life, to many 
coming and going in order to
savor your loving presence.
How can we not appreciate
and be awed like your people
in the wilderness who witnessed 
your immense majesty 
on the face of Moses you met
frequently inside your tent
putting on and off the veil
that eventually played a role in our faith.
As Moses came down from Mount Sinai
with the two tablets of the commandments
in his hands, he did not know that the skin
of his face had become radiant 
while he conversed with the Lord.
Whenever Moses entered 
the presence of the Lord to converse
with him, he removed the veil until 
he came out again.  On coming out,
he would tell the children of Israel all
that had been commanded.  Then the
children of Israel would see that the skin
of Moses' face was radiant; so he would
put again the veil over his face until
he went in to converse with the Lord.
(Exodus 34:29, 34-35)
In your eternal wisdom, dear Father,
you eventually removed that veil
in the coming of your Son Jesus Christ
so we can go nearer to you than ever
to be one with you in him
through him, and with him
 by going through the same process
of going in and going out.
Jesus said to his disciples:
"The Kingdom of heaven
is like a treasure buried in a field,
which a person finds
and hides again,
and out of joy goes and sells
all that he has and buys the field.
Again, the Kingdom of heaven
is like a merchant
searching for fine pearls.
When he finds a pearl of great price,
he goes and sells all that he has
and buys it."
(Matthew 13:44-46)
We pray, O Lord, we remain focused
in you alone, learning to adapt,
 willing to let go whatever we hold so that
 even if we do not see you face to face
like your beloved disciple in the empty tomb
 that Easter morn, we may still believe
 even if we only see the veil that covered your face,
wrapped neatly into one place. Amen.

The “gift” of face masks

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Tuesday, Fifth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I, 09 February 2021
Genesis 1:20-2:4     >><)))*>   +   <*(((><<     Mark 7:1-13
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, March 2020.

Praying over your words today, O Lord our God, made me rejoice and thank you in giving us the face masks that remind us of our being “created in your own image and likeness (Gen.1:26-27)”, helping us heal our broken relationships as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Thank you Lord for this face mask because we now look longer into the eyes of one another, trying to recognize everyone but most of all, trying to find you in every face we meet each day. Before the pandemic, we have taken everyone for granted. We would hardly even look into each one’s face and eyes but now, with masks covering our faces, we strive to recognize each one by looking into each other’s eyes, trying to listen to each one’s voice, trying hard to recall how we have met, trying to figure out how have we known each other.

Suddenly with the face masks, we have finally tried to look into each other’s face again to recognize each one as a friend, a brother and sister in you and to finally find you, too, sweet Jesus!

But there is still another blessing in disguise for us in the wearing of these face masks when we finally learned to become silent and appreciate silence too!

Before the pandemic without the face masks, we spoke too much, never looking into one another. We would rather speak and speak and speak without hearing nor listening nor feeling the other person, hardly looking into each other’s eyes, numbing our selves of our connectedness in the invisible ties that bind us as your children, almighty God our Father.

So true are your words today, Lord Jesus, especially before the pandemic when our mouths were exposed without masks that we have become a people more on lip service, “honoring you with our lips while our hearts are so far from you and from others that we nullify your words in favor of our traditions empty of meaning” (Mk.7:6, 13).

May we learn to internalize in our hearts the words we are about to speak so that like you, may we share in the power of your words that create than destroy, enlighten than darken so that one day, sooner or later, may contribute to the end of this pandemic.

Help us realize, God our Father, during these trying times that a more lasting solution to this pandemic is to go back to you in paradise, to experience true sabbath of having you as our God at the center of our lives, always listening and trusting in your voice and words. Amen.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, March 2020.

A prayer to be grateful

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul

Wednesday, Week XXII, Year I, 04 September 2019

Colossians 1:1-8 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Luke 4:38-44

Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

Heavenly Father, I always thank you in my prayers. Early in life, I have been told to always say “thank you” and I have diligently kept that, always thanking people especially you for your goodness to me.

But, now I wonder if I have been “thanking” so much without being truly grateful?

There are “thank you’s” that come from lips and there are “thank you’s” that come from the heart which is what gratitude is all about. So often, I say “thank you” out of habit without really looking into the heart, the goodness of the one doing or giving me a favor. Too often, I thank for the thing or favor, not the person.

“We always give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jess and the love that you have for all the holy ones because of the hope reserved for you in heaven.”

Colossians 1:3-5

How lovely it is to dwell on St. Paul’s expression of his gratitude, his thanksgiving that is clearly directed to persons – including you, O God!

Like the people of Capernaum where you have healed Simon’s mother-in-law and others, they saw your person to thank that they begged you to stay in their town.

Remind me always, Lord, that whenever I say “thank you”, I may first try to feel the heart and experience the goodness of the person doing me good for a grateful heart always sees the loving face. Amen.

Seeing Jesus, Seeing God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Saturday, Easter Week IV, 18 May 2019
Acts 13:44-52///John 14:7-14
Facade of the wall enclosing the St. Katherine Monastery in Sinai, Egypt. At its back is Mt. Sinai where pilgrims begin their ascent to the mountain where God met with Moses. Photo by author 06 May 2019.

So many times, Lord Jesus, we desire to see your Father. But so many times, too, we forget that whoever has seen you has also seen the Father…

Philip said to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”

John 14:8-9

But, what is really to see you, Lord, that we may also see the Father?

If seeing the Father is seeing in our lives its unity and oneness with you, then, let us imitate you Jesus that our lives may also be like yours.

If seeing the Father is seeing in our lives your mercy and forgiveness of our sins, then, let us be merciful and forgiving with others so we see more of you Jesus among us.

If seeing the Father is seeing in our lives the grace to rise above our lowly selves to become better persons, to be holy like the Father in heaven, then, let us strive to get closer to you Jesus by following you faithfully in loving service with others.

Through you, O Christ, you have brought the Father closest to us; and in you, O Jesus, the Father approaches us, drawing us unto him by leading us beyond ourselves into his infinite greatness and love.

Like what you did through the Holy Spirit to Paul and Barnabas in the first reading today, help us to keep our cool amid many adversaries, filled with joy in the face of many crises and obstacles because we have seen seen you and the Father too! Amen.

Kept inside this chapel in the Monastery of St. Katherine in Sinai, Egypt is said to be the burning bush where God first appeared to Moses. Photo by author, 06 May 2019.