Christmas, an overshadowing by God

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent, Fifth Day of Christmas Novena, 20 December 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14     ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>     Luke 1:26-38
Photo by Mr. John Ryan Jacob, 19 December 2022.

I have stopped listening to Christmas carols and music long before the COVID-19 pandemic came. During that time, especially with the sudden spread of Christmas countdowns and early playing of Christmas music, I felt it as the high point of commercialization and trivialization of this blessed celebration.

But when the pandemic came in 2020, I began appreciating Christmas carols again as I longed for something to cheer me up on those days of lockdown. Unfortunately, I never had the time to make a Christmas playlist that as I drive to my Simbang Gabi Masses since last week, I have never sang nor hummed Christmas carols. All I have in my car stereo are my secular music playlist that surprisingly conveyed the Christmas messages of love and faith, family and friends, life and death.

That is the power of music which transcends seasons and celebrations like this old favorite by Don McLean, the Birthday Song which is about his intense experience of love with a lost loved one.

You see I love the way you love me
I love the way you smile at me
I love the way we live this life we're in...
I don't believe in magic but I do believe in you
And when you say you believe in me
There's so much magic I can do

Okay. Call me cheesy. And old.

But what McLean sings is very true. It is like Christmas with its “magical” powers and beauty! What I mean here in the word “magical” to describe Christmas is the sense that it is indeed an event, a reality that happened and continues to happen among us only if we allow the Divine power of God to overshadow us.

If you try to listen to this song, it speaks of an intense love relationship that not even death could separate. McLean claims in his song that his experience was too deep for words. Difficult to express.

Like in the experience of Mary, the Blessed Virgin Mother.

But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.”

Luke 1:34-35
Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

Luke’s choice of the word “overshadowing” evokes a strong sense of power from God, of his personal intervention into humanity. The eternal God entering the temporal. It is something so powerful to show that contrary to usual human thought that God remains in the spiritual realm, here Luke shows us that God is God indeed – omnipotent, all powerful!

The Protestant theologian Karl Barth (1886-1968) said there are two moments in the life of Jesus that God intervenes directly in the material world: his virginal birth and his resurrection in which Jesus saw no corruption at all. These are totally unacceptable to modern minds because they believe God is concerned only with spiritual things, that God acts only in the spiritual world, not in the material world.

Such kind of thinking is so prevalent among many people these days, and, unfortunately, even among those who profess to believe in God!

When the angel told Mary that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and the power of the Most High will overshadow her, it meant God personally acting in her, coming to her which she totally welcomed with her fiat.

Photo by author, Nazareth, Israel, 2019.

To be overshadowed by God the Most High means a deep intense presence of the Holy One which is a favorite theme of Luke especially in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles. It is the power of Jesus in the Holy Spirit acting and moving through the apostles that made Jesus so present even if he had ascended into heaven.

Moreover, to overshadowed by God is also deep and transforming divine presence in Mary wherein in her cooperation, the entire human history was radically altered which until now is felt worldwide with our celebration of Christmas itself which the world unfortunately tries to relegate to mere holiday by removing Christ himself.

Unlike in the case of the annunciation of John’s birth to Zechariah yesterday, Mary is here presented as totally absorbed with the event, with her conversation with the angel, God’s messenger. She was totally aware of everything, very present before God, sincere and true. Recall that Zechariah angered the angel yesterday because he challenged God – who else could convince him of the good news if he still refused to believe God had answered their prayers with the angel already in front of him?

Worst was King Ahaz in the first reading who entered into alliance with neighboring kingdoms of Israel while at the same time signing a secret pact with their common enemy, Assyria just to be sure they would not be invaded and conquered. That angered God and eventually led to Israel’s downfall.

But that did not stop God in involving himself with us and human history with Isaiah’s prophecy of the coming Messiah or Emmanuel, Jesus Christ who is the God-with-us.

When Isaiah prophesied to King Ahaz about “the child to be born by a virgin”, it was not just meant for the people of Israel at that time about 700 years before Christ’s coming but also for all of us in this time. Isaiah’s prophecy was for all of us to realize that indeed, God had already come, the Virgin had given birth to the Messiah that began the personal entry of God into us, his direct involvement in our lives so that it would finally lead us to fulfillment in him.

This prophecy that had been fulfilled in Jesus through Mary should convince us once and for all that God is true and truly among us.

Like Mary, are we personally engaging with God in Jesus, through Jesus?

If we can just create that sacred space within us to allow Jesus be born right in our hearts, to speak his words of love and belief in us, we could do so many great things like Mary in this world. Or, like Don McLean in his song. Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ,
let me feel your presence in me
like Mary your Mother;
let me believe in your presence,
let me listen to your voice,
to your affirmations
so that I may start living in you,
in your presence,
in your love,
in your kindness.
May I be a sign of your
intense presence in this world
that have relegated you in the clouds
and world of ideas and spirits;
let me be a sign of your transforming presence
in this world that badly needs
healing and mercy,
forgiveness and kindness,
comfort and consolation
amid the many confusions
that keep us all apart from one another
and from you, our Lord and God,
our grounding and destiny.
Amen.
Photo by author, 07 December 2022.

Daily presentation to the Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog 
Monday, Memorial of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 21 November 2022
Revelation 14:1-3, 4-5   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 21:1-4
Lord Jesus Christ,
as we enter today this final stretch
of the current liturgical calendar,
you gave us the Memorial of the 
Presentation of your Blessed Mother
as an occasion for us to present ourselves
to you fittingly like her.
Help us to always remember your love
and mercy, Lord, so we may remain on track
on your path of humility and obedience
like Mary; may we always remember
your call to holiness and to mission
being sent like you by the Father;
may we always remember like Mary
to be always truthful and clean in our lips.

These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They have been ransomed as the first fruits of the human race for God and then Lamb. On their lips no deceit has been found; they are unblemished.

Revelation 14:4-5
Help us imitate, dear Jesus,
that poor widow at the temple area
who gave everything she had - 
"two small coins" - into the treasury box;
grant us the grace to be like her,
to be like your Mother Mary,
to be like your grandparents St. Joachim and St. Anne
who offered their whole lives, 
their whole livelihood to God
because they believed,
they trusted, and hence,
they loved without measure.
Amen.

Prayer against complacency

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday in the Thirty-Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 08 November 2022
Titus 2:1-8, 11-14   ><]]]'> + <'[[[>< === ><]]]'> + <'[[[><   Luke 17:7-10
Lord Jesus Christ,
as we approach the end of the year
before we get carried away
with the excitement of your birthday
that is Christmas, help me focus on you
more earnestly these days.
Do not let me be complacent.

Jesus said to the Apostles: “Who among you would say to your servant who has just come in from plowing or tending sheep in the field, ‘Come here immediately and take your place at table?’ When you have done all you have been commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.'”

Luke 17:7, 10
Forgive me, Jesus
when there are times I feel so entitled
to you after I have done your assigned
task and mission;
let me keep in my mind always
that more than fulfilling the will of the Father,
what matters most is our relationship with God.

Do not let me be complacent in being good,
in being faithful,
in being a good example to others
as St. Paul instructed Titus
to remind everyone,
both the elder men and women,
 and younger men and women too!

For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and live temperately, justly, and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope, the appearance of the glory of the great God and of our savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to deliver us from all lawlessness and to cleanse for himself a people as his own, eager to do what is good.

Titus 2:11-14
Keep me temperate,
dignified, self-controlled,
sound in faith, love and endurance,
showing myself as a model of good deeds
in every respect, with integrity in teaching,
dignity, and sound speech 
that cannot be
criticized.
Amen.

Losing one’s self in Christ

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Twenty-Ninth Week of Ordinary Time, Year II, 20 November 2022
Ephesians 3:14-21   ><000'> + <'000>< = ><000'> + <'000><   Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, 2018.
Dearest Jesus,
Help me imitate St. Paul's
beautiful prayer for the Ephesians:
may the Holy Spirit strengthen my 
"inner self" so that you may dwell
in my heart that is "rooted in faith"
and "grounded in love";
grant me the "strength to comprehend" -
not just understand but embrace totally
"the breadth and length and height and depth"
of your love that "surpasses knowledge"
by entering into a communion in you,
an intimacy "with all the fullness of God"
(Ephesians 3:16-19).
This can only happen to me,
Lord Jesus Christ,
if I allow myself to lose my soul to you
in order to gain it by allowing
your fire to purify me of my sins
and self-centeredness
(Luke 12:49-51).
Set me on fire, Jesus,
as you have declared in the gospel:
lit me with courage and joy in witnessing
your Cross in this time of darkness
when everybody follows the artificial lights
of the world that lead to emptiness;
let me be immersed into your paschal mystery
of Passion, Death and Resurrection,
of bearing all the pains that lead to conversion
and to true peace as you have promised
at the Last Supper that is the fruit of
love and sacrifices, not of compromises
as the peace of the world offers.
Dearest Lord,
let me see everything in your love
even if it seems so impossible
like your victory over death;
seduce me, O Lord,
dupe me like Jeremiah
to join you in your adventure,
to go beyond my limits
even if it may be fatal
for that is the only way 
to lose myself
in order to gain you,
Jesus Christ our Lord!
"Now to him 
who is able to accomplish
far more than all we ask or imagine,
by the power at work within us,
to him be glory in the Church
and in Christ Jesus to all generations,
forever and ever.  Amen."
(Ephesians 3:20-21)
Photo by author, 2018.

Powerless before God, powerful in God

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 16 October 2022
Exodus 17:8-13 ><000'> 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2 ><000'> Luke 18:1-8
Photo by author, Baguio City, February 2020.

Time flies so fast that there are only five Sundays left in our liturgical calendar before Advent comes in preparation for Christmas. For the next three Sundays beginning today, we shall again hear three gospel stories found only in Luke that underscore the importance of faith and prayer, revealing to us the beautiful image of God who “does justice” to defenseless people like the widow today, “justifies” those who humble themselves like the publican next Sunday, and “saves” sinners like Zacchaeus two Sundays from now.

As we reflect on God’s goodness, we discover along the way our own giftedness that we must share with people around us, especially those suffering and in need.

Jesus told his disciples a parable about the necessity for them to pray always without becoming weary. He said, “There was a judge in a certain town who neither feared God nor respected any human being. And a widow in that town used to come to him and say, ‘Render a just decision for me against my adversary.’ For a long time the judge was unwilling, but eventually he thought, ‘While it is true that I neither fear God nor respect any human being, because this widow keeps bothering me I shall deliver a just decision for her lest she finally come and strike me.'”

Luke 18:1-5
Painting “Le Juge Inique” (Unjust Judge) by Swiss artist Eugene Burnand (1850-1921) from http://www.eugene-burnand.com/Parables/unjust%20judge.htm.

Both the widow and the unjust judge exhibited admirable traits we are all invited to emulate: the widow being persistent and the unjust judge eventually becoming a just one in handing a good decision.

Jesus intentionally used the image of the widow in this parable because widows in his time were particularly powerless and vulnerable. Recall how Jesus was moved with pity on a widow upon witnessing the funeral of her young son in Nain (Lk.7:11-16).

Imagine the very sad plight of widows in ancient time when women were not even considered as persons at all that they were not counted like the children; women were totally dependent to their husband and sons in their lives that if they die, the widows left behind were reduced to nothing at all because they could not inherit their husband’s estate that was passed on to the deceased man’s sons or brothers.

Painting of “Parable of the Unjust Judge” by Pieter de Greber (1628) from Web Gallery of Art,https://www.wga.hu/frames-e.html?/html/g/grebber/pieter/parable.html.

The widow in this parable tells us of the need for us to be powerless like her, to totally entrust ourselves to God who is our only hope in life. The widow had no other recourse but to persistently beg the unjust judge for a favorable ruling for her. That is the spirit and attitude we must have when praying which is a call for our total surrender of self to God.

And here lies the difficulty for us especially these days when we spend so much efforts to be powerful than powerless. This we have been practicing extensively in social media where we always want to be the one in control of everything, of being the first to post the latest and hottest news and gossips, of flaunting our newly acquired expensive gadgets or received gifts, of making known to everyone our sumptuous meals or how we have gone to some expensive far-away vacation spot. Come on, one can easily determine when we are posting simply to share or to brag.

As much as possible, we try to resolve our problems using our own powers. We pray and come to God only when all options have been exhausted, when we feel hopeless because it is already beyond our powers. Prayer is more of a last resort than our first recourse because God is only a “footnote” or a safety-catch in our lives in case we go through severe tests like tragedy, illness, death of a loved one, or failure in whatever form.

The widow in this parable reminds us of that beautiful lesson we have reflected these past Sundays that faith is a relationship nourished and nurtured by our prayer.

People who love always talk. They always relate and communicate for no reason at all simply because they love and care for each other. Like the widow, wala nang iba talaga!

If prayer is conversing with God, then, we would always relate with him whether our problem is big or small, serious or not, or even if we have no problem at all because we love him! Without God, we find no meaning and strength to hurdle life’s challenges.

This is the meaning of that story of Moses praying to God on top of a hill while Joshua battled the forces of Amalek in the wilderness; it was the power of God that prevailed over Israel’s enemies because they all relied in him alone. It is the similar story of the Feast of our Lady of the Rosary when the outnumbered Spanish fleet defeated the Ottoman Turks at Lepanto Bay (07 October 1571) while Christians prayed the Holy Rosary as instructed by St. Pope Pius V.

When was the last time have you felt like the widow before God, of having that attitude there is nobody else who can fulfill us except God?

Photo from https://freebibleimages.org/photos/persistent-widow/

On the other hand, we are also the unjust judge in this parable for we are not only sinful and unjust like him but also blessed with great powers to help those in need!

Many times, we act like the unjust judge when we refuse to recognize and admit the great powers – with its great responsibilities – God had given us in our various capacities and positions in life. We may not be issuing verdicts in courts but everyday, our decisions matter so much to those around us right in our own families, in our schools, in our offices and in our neighborhood and community.

Confronted by the persistent widow without any means to pay and bribe the unjust judge, we are reminded most especially to have a heart in favor of those who have less in life. One of the most important lessons I have learned in priesthood happened during our final year of formation in the seminary when our former bishop, the Most Rev. Rolando J. Tria-Tirona of Naga City told us in a conference that “those who have less in life must have more of God”.

Beautifully true but sadly, far from happening in our Church because we rarely use the powers God has shared with us to love and save, to heal and raise to new life people saddled with so many sufferings and sins in life. Like the unjust judge, may we open our eyes and hearts to the plight of the powerless around us.

Have faith that even the most evil persons are capable of doing the right thing. Imagine if every disciple of Christ is a man of faith despite of his/her sinfulness and weaknesses? That would be so nice as life could be a bit better and fair for everyone! This is the reason why at the end of the parable, Jesus asked the crucial question:

“But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

Luke 18:8
Photo from Photo from https://freebibleimages.org/photos/persistent-widow/.

Has anyone ever told you that you are “the answer to his/her prayers?” In life, God answers our prayers through one another, through faithful disciples who are both powerless before God and powerful in God.

We all have this great power of God in our hands, in effecting change, in bringing peace and justice to this world through the power of his word as St. Paul reminds us today in the second reading.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power; proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.

2 Timothy 4:1-2

We live in a world characterized not only with great desire and display of power but also of instant gratification. We have lost the virtues and values of patience, persistence, and perseverance. Everything must be had instantly. Now na!

This Sunday’s parable invites us to recover our great power in God by being powerless before him again so we may be the answered prayers of many people suffering and thirsting for justice and mercy, forgiveness and salvation.

Be that person of faith and power of God. The widow and needy person who comes to you could be Jesus Christ himself. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Faithful and loving

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. John XXIII, Pope, 11 October 2022
Galatians 5:1-6   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 11:37-41
Photo by author, April 2022.

Brothers and sisters: For freedom Christ set us free; so stand firm and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery. For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

Galatians 5:1, 6
O dearest Jesus,
thank you for coming
to save us, 
in setting us free
from sin
and most especially,
from the yoke of slavery
to externalities of
religion.
Keep us faithful 
to you, Jesus,
by being more loving
to one another;
set our sights on
you and people
not on rules and
regulations,
rituals and traditions
as you have pointed out
in the gospel today.
Through the intercession
of your servant,
St. John XXIII who was
lovingly called as 
"the good Pope"
and father of Vatican II,
give us the courage 
to stand firm
and defend our faith in you
while being open to the winds
of change sweeping
the world today.

Make us free and faithful,
and loving too like him 
who had said on the eve
of the conclave that would
elect him as Pope John XXIII,
"We are not here to guard a museum,
but to cultivate a flourishing garden
of life."  Amen.
St. John XXIII,
Pray for us!
Photo from https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/

Faithful, grateful, and joyful

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 09 October 2022
2 Kings 5:14-27  ><000'>  2 Timothy 2:8-13  ><000'>  Luke 17:11-19
Photo by author, Egypt, May 2019.

Many times in life as we age and look back to our past, we find that our journeys are not geographical at all but more of spiritual ones. No matter how many places we visit or stay, our journeys actually happen within that lead us to our true selves, to others and finally, to God.

This is what St. Luke has been doing every Sunday as he guides us in following Jesus in his itinerary since he “resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem” last Sunday of June (Lk.9:51, 13th Sunday); the path we have been following is not really geographical but theological in nature.

As Jesus continued his journey to Jerusalem he traveled through Samaria and Galilee. As he was entering a village, ten lepers met him. They stood at a distance from him and raised their voice, saying, “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us!” And when he saw them, he said, “go show yourselves to the priests.” As they were going they were cleansed.

Luke 17:11-14
Photo by author, Egypt, May 2019.

Again, our gospel this Sunday is so brief with many layers of meanings found only in St. Luke. Imagine Jesus going through pagan districts like Samaria where his fellow Jews never dared to go. That is how immense is God’s love for us – even if we undeserving of his love, he sent Jesus to look for us sinners signified by the ten lepers he had healed.

In fact, some exegetes claim the wording for the “ten lepers” who met Jesus should have been “ten men with leprosy” for a more accurate translation of the Greek leproi andres. According to them, St. Luke was emphasizing here that no matter what weaknesses we are afflicted with, we are still the same persons and human beings loved by God. Very often in life, we categorize and define people by their sin and weakness or crime and worst, by illness and defects as seen in our penchant for bansag (Filipino for name calling) like Kardong mandurugas or si Putol or even tabachoy!

St. Luke wants us to see everyone first as a human being, a person so loved by Jesus; whatever weaknesses we have must come later. This I insist during confessions to penitents to never call one’s self as “thief” if you have stolen something nor “liar” if you have lied because we all remain God’s beloved children even if we have sinned.

Photo by author, 2018.

There is no doubt in God’s love for us despite our being “unworthy servants” and being afflicted with leprosy, or whatever. What matters to him is the fact we are his beloved children. That is why in the first reading, God healed Naaman through his prophet Elisha despite his being a pagan and unbeliever. And worst of all, an enemy of Israel being a Syrian army general! St. Paul beautifully expressed this truth about God’s love and mercy in Christ found in our second reading today:

This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us. If we are unfaithful he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.

2 Timothy 2:11-13

What are the other diseases and ailments that make us cry “Jesus, Master! Have pity on us”? These are not literally a disease or sickness like leprosy but may have the same effects of alienation and depression with us like a vice too difficult to kick like drugs and alcohol or may be indifference and racism by others to us or our “self inflicted” ailments of arrogance, self-centeredness, and self-righteousness.

Many times, we hardly notice we are being healed slowly by Jesus of our many infirmities because our faith has never deepened and matured. The Samaritan noticed his healing because of the ten with leprosy, he was the only one truly faithful in awaiting Jesus Christ. He had faith in Jesus and though it was so small or too little, he had that faith nurtured that the moment he saw his skin cleansed, he remembered Jesus right away. As we have reflected last Sunday, faith is a relationship we keep, nurture and strengthen.

And one of them, realizing he had been healed, returned, glorifying God in a loud voice; and he fell at the feet of Jesus and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus said in reply, “Ten were cleansed, were they not? Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” Then he said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.”

Luke 17:15-19
Photo by author, Caesarea, Israel 2017.

The scene is so lovely because the Samaritan healed of leprosy teaches us that grateful people are also faithful – and joyful ones! Faith is a relationship that is nourished by gratitude wherein we not only thank God and other people who have blessed us but also remain with them and in them; hence, we keep on coming back to thank them.

The more grateful we are to God and other people, the more we are blessed, the more we become joyful, and the more our faith is deepened! As we walk in faith in Jesus, experiencing those daily suffering and dying to self, we become more aware too of our rising to new life in him. That is when miracles happen as we return and stay in Jesus to praise and thank him like that Samaritan man healed of his leprosy. Or Naaman who asked to bring home some soil from Israel so he could worship God and nurture his relationship with him in the process.

Photo by author, 2021.

Faith, gratitude, and joy always come together. We experience them every Sunday in the celebration of the Eucharist that means “thanksgiving” in Greek.

The Eucharist is the expression of our faith in God in Jesus Christ that also expresses our gratitude to him for all the blessings he abundantly pours upon us. As the summit of our Christian life, the Eucharist defines our worship and living because it is the only way we can truly express our faith and gratitude to God who wishes only our salvation in his Son Jesus Christ.

In the Eucharist, it is not only the bread and wine that are changed into Body and Blood of Christ but even us who are made perfect in Jesus as his disciples and members of his Body, the Church.

In the Eucharist we experience the joys of being faithful, thankful and joyful because that is where we are saved as we encounter Christ in the most intimate and personal manner in his Body and Blood who slowly transforms us in him as we receive him.

Let us imitate that Samaritan healed by Jesus to always be grateful to Jesus, to finally go back to the Sunday Mass F2F, so that together we may all grow in faith and be joyful for being saved. Amen. Have a blessed week ahead!

Praying not to mislead others

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Memorial of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska, Virgin, 05 October 2022
Galatians 2:1-2, 7-14   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Luke 11:1-4
Photo by author, Church of the Our Father outside Jerusalem, Israel, May 2019.
Thank you, dear Jesus,
in leading us always in life,
in teaching us how to pray like
you by being one with our Father;
empower us, O Lord,
to be firm in calling God our Father
by being faithful and true to your
one teaching,
one calling,
one Body that includes everyone
especially the poor and suffering.
Make us mindful always
of the many occasions we try
pleasing everyone, like St. Peter
whom St. Paul opposed "to his face"
when he disguised of not hurting the 
feelings of some believers by following
the ways of former Jews that only those
circumcised would be saved; so often,
in our adoption of many defense mechanisms
and pretexts to hide our indecision in
standing for Christ, that is when we actually
mislead others from you, Jesus!

But when I saw that they were not on the right road in line with the truth of the Gospel, I said to Cephas in front of all, “If you, though a Jew, are living like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

Galatians 2:14
Enlighten our minds
and our hearts through the Holy Spirit 
to ensure that it is 
only you, Jesus,
always you, Jesus
whom we share in
everything we say
and do.
Amen.
O most holy St. Sr. Faustina, 
with whom the Lord revealed his
Divine Mercy,
pray for us to be faithful
and convinced and consistent 
in Christ Jesus
our Divine Mercy.
Amen.

Faith, like love, is a relationship

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 02 October 2022
Habakkuk 1:2-3, 2:2-4 ><}}}}'> 1 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 ><}}}}'> Luke 17:5-10
Photo by Ms. Ria De Vera, Christ the King Celebration in our former parish assignment, November 2020.

Our gospel this Sunday may be short and brief but so power-packed that can put us into a knock out. In fact, the scene is very disarming that can throw off all our previously held beliefs to give us fresher perspectives on discipleship and faith.

Recall how these past consecutive Sundays that Jesus taught us the importance of God and persons above material wealth like money and possessions. Notice how these lessons were directed by Jesus to the Pharisees and scribes who were known as so obsessed with money. Hardly did we hear any reactions from the Twelve – nor from most of us – until now when they asked Jesus to “increase our faith” (Lk.17:5).

The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.” The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”

Luke 17:5-6
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.

When we talk of faith, 
it does not really matter how long 
we have known each other, 
or how much we have given and received, 
or how much we have shared.  
Faith is being one, being together, 
of going the extra mile 
because we believe, we trust, we love. 

What elicited a reaction from the apostles? Or from us? Let’s admit the fact that many of us have felt the parables last two Sundays were not directly meant for us considering our professed “poverty” and “simplicity” in life. But, when Jesus spoke of the need to forgive those who sin against us every time they come saying sorry, the apostles realized that needed a lot of faith.

And rightly so.

When it comes to hurting our pride and ego, something deeper is at play, something so close to our person is involved than when we lose a material thing. Like the apostles, we have felt how much faith in God is demanded from us to forgive especially those who repeatedly offend us, that on our own we cannot do it.

Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.

Hence, their request (that is also ours) to “increase our faith” because forgiving requires a lot of faith, a lot of love; however, faith is like love that cannot be quantified nor measured because like love, faith is also a relationship.

Our relationship with God and with one another is seen always in the kind of intensity we have for each other. My generation used to call it as “vibes” or vibrations, of how we are one with the other person, of how we are in communion or aligned and attuned with the other person. When we talk of faith, it does not really matter how long we have known each other, or how much we have given and received, or how much we have shared. Faith is being one, being together, of going the extra mile because we believe, we trust, we love.

This is the reason that Jesus followed up his answer to the Twelve’s request with a parable of the unworthy servants who came home after working from the field and still waited on their master at dinner; then, after fulfilling their tasks, they simply told their master “We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do” (Lk. 17:10). There was no real relationship between the master and slaves except their job or task and responsibility. If it were a faith relationship, the servants would have done more than just waiting on their master because they would have believed in him!

When our faith is true, when our faith is burning like the reminder of St. Paul to Timothy in the second reading, it means we are focused with the object of our faith who are God and our loved ones. We need not be reminded of things to do, of our obligations; when there is faith in us, our focus is keeping the relationship alive and well that we go the extra mile in lovingly serving our loved ones which is discipleship is all about.


That is how faith as a relationship
 may be described these days:  
like an online class, an online meeting, 
even online Mass when sometimes 
you really wonder if there is somebody listening
 or paying attention at the other side of the screen
 but you just go on...

Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.

People who are deeply in love are first of all one with their loved ones that they are able to do great things because of their intense and vibrant faith that keep them united. With a burning faith inside us, we are able to love the unloveable, forgive the most despicable, achieve what others claim as impossible.

Just think of the saints like St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta or the very young St. Therese of the Child Jesus. Or, the great martyrs of Auschwitz, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) and St. Maximilian Kolbe. There is no way of measuring how much faith they have in Jesus Christ and humanity but we can learn from their lives the intensity of their faith and love for God and others that they did the impossible!

Very interesting was the faith too of the late Mother Angelica who founded and started EWTN that is now the largest Catholic media organization in the world. She knew nothing about broadcasting yet, all she had was faith in God and in people that she was able to overcome every obstacle to make what EWTN right now.

Think of the big corporations and enterprises around you; they all started so small in material resources but so intense in faith and conviction that they have all grown to become the leading institutions in whatever field they are into. Sometimes, believers are described as visionaries because people with deep faith see beyond what others can perceive. Remember how Jesus would remind his apostles on different occasions to “believe so that you will see” that runs opposite what the world tells us with “to see is to believe”. People who are faithful, those who believe are the ones who can truly see, not the other way around. Faithful people have vision.

Photo by author, Pangsinan, April 2022.

Prayer is the primary expression of our faith as a relationship that we just keep on doing because we believe it is good even if it is so difficult especially when nothing seems to be happening at all. We just keep on praying, believing and hoping that God is with us, very similar to our online experiences these past two years of the pandemic when many times, we wonder if there is somebody listening or paying attention at the other side of the screen! But, call it faith and relationship that we just went on with our classes and work including prayers and Masses online because we believe someone, especially God, is at the other side, even beside us!

We have not seen God but we have all experienced his love and kindness, his mercy and forgiveness that even if nothing happens like Habakkuk in the first reading, we just keep on praying (and loving) because our relationship remains intact with God who is faithfully by our side.

When our faith is alive and vibrant, we get closer to God and with others, we become more loving and caring and kind, understanding and patient and forgiving, finding ways and means to love and serve God in others.

God knows what is best for us. He has gifted us with enough faith. Let us ask him not just to increase our faith but most of all, to deepen, strengthen, and perfect our faith so that our ties and bonds as family and friends and community of disciples be stronger in Jesus Christ, both in good times and in bad. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2014.

Imitating Job

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Vincent de Paul, Priest, 27 September 2022
Job 3:1-3, 11-17, 20-23   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 9:51-56
Photo by author, Makati skyline from Antipolo, August 2022.
Thank you again,
dear God our loving Father
in keeping us safe from the 
powerful super typhoon that
hit us Sunday evening;
most of all, thank you in giving
us that faith within us like Job
when we go through storms in
life, sometimes so violent and
devastating like the real ones.
Bless us, O God, to be like Job:
to have that grace of crying out
our hearts, of venting out our pains
and even anger when like him,
we curse the day but never you:

Job opened his mouth and cursed his day. Job spoke out and said: Perish the day on which I was born, the night when they said, “The child is a boy!” Why did I not perish at birth, come forth from the womb and expire?

Job 3:1-2, 3
Help us realize, dear Father,
these little "deaths" we go through
daily in life like sickness and loss of
loved ones are the realities of life
itself that prepare us for our eternal
union in you that would surely come
on our Death with a big D;
we are indeed "being-towards-death"
beginning on the day of our birth when
we have to cry out loud and kick hard
to be alive! 
It is through our pains and sufferings
that we become truly human,
when we feel with others in 
empathy and sympathy,
when we stay with others
in consolation,
when we strive to be like
Jesus in raising up others
by being "resolutely determined
to journey to Jerusalem" (Lk.9:51)
to face death that have inspired saints
like your servant Vincent de Paul
who worked so hard for the sick, 
the abandoned, and the poor,
inspiring other saints in the 
process!
We pray for everyone 
going through darkness,
battered by storms in life
to keep their faith,
that it is okay to cry and
complain because it is really
difficult; most of all, 
remind us, Jesus, that
without pains and 
sufferings in this world,
then this life would be
so dull, even meaningless
because that is when we
are totally by ourselves,
utterly selfish because we can
only find life's meaning in others,
never in our selves.
Amen.