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.

Living in God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Memorial of St. Andrew Kim Taegon & Korean Martyrs, 20 September 2022
Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13     <*((((>< + ><))))*>     Luke 8:19-21
Photo by Dr. Mai B. Dela Peña, Santorini, Greece, 2014.
God our loving Father,
today I offer myself to you,
everything I have,
all my plans and undertakings
because everything is ultimately
in your hands!

Like a stream is the king’s heart in the hand of the Lord; wherever it pleases him, he directs it. All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes, but it is the Lord who proves hearts. To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.

Proverbs 21:1-3
Slow me down,
caution me,
and if necessary,
stop me to yield to
your Holy Will and
better plans especially
when I am overwhelmed
by my many preparations,
when I feel stressed and
compelled by people and
situations; remind me, Lord,
people and their welfare
are better than programs
and things; open my heart
and my ears to listen to your
words, to your voice always the
faintest one deep in my heart
covered by the noises of the world
and of my many confusions and 
selfish ambitions.
Like the first martyrs of Korea
whom we remember today,
grant me courage and perseverance
to hold on to what is true and good,
to remain steadfast in faith
in the face of persecutions
and trials,
ready to sacrifice and
let go of my pleasures and
comforts, so inspire others
to find and follow you, dear Jesus.

St. Andrew Kim Taegon and
companion Martyrs, 
Pray for Us!
Amen. 
St. Andrew Kim Taegon, first Korean priest with his lay associate St. Paul Chong Hasan with 113 other Koreans died as martyrs between 1839 and 1867. There are now about four million Korean Catholics, one of the most vibrant in the world, ranking fourth with the most number of saints.

Praying for those we value

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Twenty-Fourth Week of Ordinary Time, 12 September 2022
1 Corinthians 11:17-26, 33   ><)))*> + <*(((>< ><)))*> + <*(((><   Luke 7:1-10
Photo by author, 2018.
On this blessed Monday
after a weekend of heavy rains
and thunderstorms, I pray dear 
Lord Jesus for those dearest to
me, the persons I value for they
have all showed me a glimpse of
your goodness and kindness;
most of all, it was from them that I
have experienced your love and care.

When Jesus had finished all his words to the people, he entered Capernaum. A centurion there had a slave who was ill and about to die, and he was valuable to him.

Luke 7:1-2
How touching,
lovely, and so sweet Luke's 
opening lines for today's gospel:
of how a gentile military officer
valued a slave, asking for
representation to Jesus for a much
needed healing, because "he was
valuable to him."
How lovely as the story went on
when the centurion declared those 
very words we also pray before
receiving you, Jesus, in Holy Communion:
"Lord, I am not worthy that you should
enter under my roof, but only say the word
and I shall be healed" (Lk.7:6).
So true, indeed, when we have deep faith
in you, dear Jesus, like that centurion, we
would surely have great love for others;
it is in this deep faith in you, O Lord
who is most present with us in the Eucharist
that we pray for the healing of our loved ones,
those we value most of their sickness 
not only in body but also in mind, heart and soul; 
deepen and strengthen their faith in you,
keep their hopes alive in you always
despite the pains and fears within them.
O dear Jesus,
may we truly be Eucharistic
in our lives, valuing every person
especially those going through 
sufferings and difficulties these
days so that "as often as we eat this
bread and drink this cup, we may
proclaim your death Lord until 
you come again" (1 Cor.11:26).
Amen.
Photo by Ka Ruben of the Parish of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima.

What surprises you?

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 25 August 2022
Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

I recently attended a children’s party when the youngest daughter of a friend, Mimi, turned seven years old. And I was so glad that I came because of the great fun I had at the magic show, clapping my hands and cheering along with all the kids and their parents.

It was so “aliw” as we say in Filipino.

Very comforting.

Not just entertaining.

Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

There was total sense of wonder in me, of pure joy seeing doves and flowers suddenly coming out of the magician’s clenched fists or folded handkerchief even if I knew it was just a trick or a sleigh of hand.

The most beautiful part of the party, of the joy and comfort was the chance for me to be like a child again as Jesus had repeatedly told us in the gospel that “unless you become like little children, you shall never inherit the kingdom of heaven.”

Imagine the great joy and comfort of believing again at what one sees and hears.

Of suspending reason and logic.

Of just enjoying the moment, of not thinking so much.

Of being like a child again at the circus or fair – “perya” as we call it in the province.

Most of all, of being caught in the magic of wonder and surprise, eagerly awaiting what’s next or how did it happen as you scratch your head while looking at the person next to you with those eyes so bewildered as you laugh out loud because you both know it was just a trick yet so true, so real.

It was so comforting because I had lost senses of time, of reason and of reality that often lead us to many anxieties of things to do and accomplish. Like Mimi the birthday celebrator, I felt I have grown and matured after regaining life, of enjoying life, of believing again in the many mysteries of this life that we can never explain nor even understand at all except to accept simply as it is like children.

Photo by Mr. Red Santiago of his son in our former parish in Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, January 2020.

To be like a child means to owe one’s existence to another, of being open to every possibility in life, of trusting that there is someone greater than us or anyone we call God who can talk to us through others who may even be different from us like the magician in his tuxedo and magic wand. That is why magic shows are not only entertaining but also comforting or nakakaaliw in Filipino. The word comfort is from the two Latin words cum fortis that literally mean “to strengthen”.

This is the reason why I think children “grow so fast” – they are always surprised because they are open that they are emboldened to try everything, trusting they can do it, that somebody is watching over them, that they are in good hands. Try observing an infant asleep in a crib when suddenly would kick his/her feet or move hands. My mom used to tell me that when babies are surprised – nagugulat – that means they were growing.

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

See how the Blessed Virgin Mary had grown and matured after being told by the angel that she would be the Mother of the Messiah to be sent by God. She was probably 15 or 16 at that time but had kept that child-like attitude of openness, of being surprised which her Son would be teaching later. Mary must have been so wrapped in awe and wonder upon hearing the angel’s annunciation to her.

But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.

Luke 1:29

Try to feel the resulting joy and fear of Mary in hearing the good news of the birth of the Messiah through her!

Right there, we could feel her faith in God at work, listening intently as the angel explained everything to her.

In the Old Testament, we find Jacob the younger son of Isaac having that same attitude of being like a child, of being open to God coming in every possibility. Remember when he fled to escape the murderous plot of his elder brother Esau after he had duped their father in bestowing his blessing to him?

On his way toward Haran, Jacob stopped at a certain shrine at sundown and took one of the stones there to place under his head as he slept for the night. It was then when he dreamt of “stairway to heaven” where angels were going up and down before God who spoke to assure him of his protection.

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he exclaimed, “Truly, the Lord is in this spot, although I did not know it!” In solemn wonder he cried out: “How awesome is this shrine! This is nothing else but an abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven!”

Genesis 28:16-17
Photo by Dr. Mai b. Dela Peña, Mt. Carmel, Israel, 2016.

Every time we are surprised by something or someone, it brings out the child in us, our wonderful sense of wonder, of believing, of trusting, of being open. Ultimately, of living again, of forging on in life amid all the darkness and uncertainties around us because we have that firm faith in a loving and merciful God who is also a Father to us.

See how this call for us to be childlike, of being surprised has become difficult even almost impossible to achieve in our world that has become so technical and “sophisticated” as we seek to shape and manipulate everything according to our own design.

In this age of the social media all around us, nothing is hidden anymore. Everything is bared open even to the skin and bones we enjoy so much like in Tiktok as if we are a planet of sex-starved, foul-mouthed, filthy rich and wanna-be’s flaunting everything and anything that can be shown by the camera.

Unfortunately, the world of “macho” men and glamorous women we love to relish with delight in the secular and even religious world in all of its trappings of fads and fashion and “hard talks”, of showmanships that we try so hard to project cannot hide the hypocrisies within, of keeping grips and control on everyone, leaving us more empty, more lost, and more alienated with one another and with our very selves.

Photo by author, 20 August 2022.

Many times in life when we feel tired and burned out, we go somewhere for some “me time”, of recharging. But, after some time, we feel lethargic again that we go out of town to find one’s self until we find nowhere else to go for retreats because the problem is actually within us.

Be like a child. Stop insisting of being an adult who knows what he/she is doing.

Set aside everything, especially your own agendas in life and open yourself to God and others to allow yourself to be surprised again, to regain that spark of rediscovering simple things without much thinking and reasoning, of just believing and be comforted that everything in this life is taken cared of by God. Like that magician in a children’s party.

May your week be filled with more surprises to gladden your heart and your spirit! God bless!

Of skin and saints and layers of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Bartholomew, Apostle, 24 August 2022
Revelation 21:9-14   ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*> + ><}}}}*>   John 1:45-51
Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2018.
Everywhere we find
layers of everything:
layers of clothing,
layers of skin,
layers of meaning;
thank you, dear God
our Father in inviting me
today as we celebrate
the feast of St. Bartholomew
to examine the different
"layers" of my faith and
knowledge of you in
Jesus Christ.
First is the layer of my
self-knowledge:  how true
am I with myself?  How free
am I in being myself, in
expressing freely my thoughts
and feelings?

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.”

John 1:45-47
Dear Jesus,
grant me that kind of
sincerity and honesty
of Nathanael/St. Bartholomew:  
you were not disgusted with his words 
for they were very true;
most of all, you even praised
him for being a true Israelite
without any guile!
What a revelation of the true
layer of St. Bartholomew
bared for everyone to see
unlike us in many occasions when
we hide our identity in many layers
often not true, so unreal of who
we are; teach us to come and see
you in your deepest layer, Jesus,
so we may be at home too with
who we really are.

Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

John 1:48-49
Grant me also the grace,
Lord  Jesus like Nathanael/
St. Bartholomew to perceive deeply
your true identity as "Son of God"
and "king of Israel"; two different layers
of your person that can only be perceived
by a deep faith, to see you who you really are,
the Son of God, and also the fulfillment
of our aspirations here in this life,
in this world as our Christ the King!
How interesting,
O God that St. Bartholomew
died a martyr after being skinned
alive and crucified upside down
like St. Peter; it must have
been his most glorious achievement
that after being skinned alive,
his persecutors must have seen
and realized too his faith was not that
skin-deep after all, that layers upon layers
of skin, they have found only you, Jesus
deeply ingrained in his very person.
Amen.
St. Bartholomew depicted by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel holding in one hand a large knife said to have been used in skinning him alive with his own skin held by his other hand. Photo from Pinterest.

Believing, living like Mary

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 15 August 2022
Revelation 11:19, 12:1-6, 10 ><)))*> 1 Corinthians 15:20-27 ><)))*> Luke 1:39-56
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacias at UP-Diliman, April 2022.
Glory and praise to you,
Father, for this great solemnity
of Mary being assumed body and
soul into heaven to remind us
of our glorious future too
which she now enjoys ahead of
us all because of her fidelity and 
total submission to your will
in every stage of her life;
teach us like Mary to believe (Lk.1:45)
and live your Word who became flesh
for us in Jesus Christ.

May this faith in you prompt
us to go in sharing Jesus
with his love and mercy, 
kindness and compassion
to those doubting you, O God,
because of too much pains
and sufferings, poverty and sickness;
in this age when people believe more
in the lies peddled by social media
and advertisements, may our lives
mirror like Mary your truth and 
greatness, dear Father with our
loving service to the needy;
in this time of so many tribulations
like this pandemic with the ever growing
materialism of people that has given rise
and spawned so many social evils in the
name of wealth, power and fame,
lead us to the desert of prayers and
purification (Rev. 12:6) so we may receive 
and respond properly to the graces and 
blessings you pour upon us lavishly,
primarily Jesus whom we receive
Body and Blood in the Eucharist,
thus making us like Mary herself,
the bearer of Jesus!
Loving Father,
so many people are suffering
these days, many are about
to give up, many are so lost
that their only hope is heaven,
sometimes wishing death
as a way out, not as a way
through the Cross of Christ
who is our way, truth and life;
show us the way,
lead us like Mary
 by believing your words
and putting them into practice
so that even now,
in the midst of sufferings and
darkness, we may enable
the people to experience and
see our true destiny in eternity
while here.
Right now.
Amen.
“The Assumption of the Virgin” by Italian Renaissance painter Titian completed in 1518 for the main altar of Frari church in Venice. Photo from en.wikipedia.org.

Faith in Jesus, perfecter of faith

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 14 August 2022
Jeremiah 38:4-6, 8-10 ><}}}*> Hebrews 12:1-4 ><}}}*> Luke 12:49-53
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

Following Jesus, being a true and good Christian is always difficult. This I realized on my first month as a priest 24 years ago when I gave a “marriage encounter” (ME) to several married couples from the parish of my former professor in the seminary.

Part of the marriage encounter is the writing of one’s sins on a piece of paper with a symbolic burning before going to confession later in the evening; problem was, as a new priest, I gave a wrong instruction asking the spouses to exchange paper with their partner to see each others sins. That was when a wife collapsed after reading the sins of her husband! Actually, she had long suspected him of infidelities but that afternoon, all her doubts and suspicions were proven very true that her blood pressure shoot up, losing her consciousness in anger and pain.

After she had been revived, she kept on saying, “akala ko ME magpapatatag sa aming samahan; ito na yata maghihiwalay sa aming dalawa ng tuluyan” (I thought the ME will make our marriage stronger but it seems this will finally cause our separation as husband and wife).

I tried explaining things to her, prayed so hard for her and eventually after six months, I met them at a wedding as they thanked me how their marriage had gone stronger after surrendering everything to Jesus Christ.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"Every Christian is a prophet...
a sign of contradiction."

Many times in our lives we have experienced that our faithful service in the Lord often leads us to distressing and painful situations, even tragic choices. In the first reading, we have heard how Jeremiah’s own folks threw him into a cistern to die because they could not take his preaching against their sinfulness and prophecies of the impending fall of Jerusalem which eventually happened. He was momentarily rescued from the cistern but later was eventually killed by his own people for speaking against their sinful ways and life.

Every Christian is a prophet like Jeremiah, a sign of contradiction among the people, even in one’s own family and circle of friends. To live against the corrupt and sinful ways of the world, to uphold what is true and just, to stand for what is honorable and good surely earn a lot of criticisms and condemnation from everyone. Even in the Church!

Jesus said to his disciples: “I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division

Luke 12:49-51
Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

With all of these words, we now wonder what is good with our Good News this Sunday? Remember, Jesus Christ is on his way to Jerusalem to face his suffering and death. Today he tells us three things to remember to remain focused with the End.

First is the fire he had brought into the world. It is not a fire of destruction but fire of heat and light that give life; fire that purifies and cleanses like silver and gold that bring out its beauty and magnificence; and most of all, the fire of God’s presence like in the burning bush of Moses and the pillars of fire/cloud that guided the Chosen People in the wilderness into the Promised Land.

Fire gives light and heat that lead into life; we can survive without food and water for several days but we cannot last even ten minutes without heat! This is the kind of fire we Christians need these days, fire that will lit us up with courage ands joy in Jesus Christ by witnessing his gospel in a world that seems to be dying and lifeless despite the noise and affluence around.

As a purifying fire, it always brings pains that lead into conversion and liberation like what that couple in my first Marriage Encounter have experienced. The fire of Christ’s mercy and forgiveness taught them to forgive each other and enabled them to lead holier lives. The more we get closer to Jesus our light, the more we see our sinfulness and weaknesses, then we change and mature. That is when we are filled with the light of Christ to become his presence in the world.

Second teaching of Jesus today is about his “other baptism” which is his Passion, Death, and Resurrection. This is the reason why he was “resolutely journeying to Jerusalem” – he was so eager, so decided to face his pasch not for the pains it would bring but for its glorious effects for us.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

That is the real meaning of baptism, from the Greek baptizein which is to immerse in water; hence, baptism before was a literal immersion in water. In our immersion into the passion and death of Jesus Christ, we enter into a communion in him and with him so that in his Resurrection, we too rise with him and in him into new life.

Third pronouncement by Jesus this Sunday is perhaps the most baffling, especially when we consider the statistics that more than half of the conflicts going on in the world today are due to religious beliefs.

Jesus never meant to bring people apart; in fact, he came to bring us all together, to gather us again as beloved children of the Father. However, it happens that the moment we stand for Jesus, for what is true and just, inevitably, we will be with odds even with those dearest to us. Jesus himself had said that “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:26).

That is one of the beautiful imageries of the Cross of Jesus Christ: it marks the end of our sinfulness and the beginning of our oneness in God.

It is the difficult aspect of discipleship when our loved ones are into sins and evil, when they are in darkness and injustice. Are we going to side with them or side with Christ?

At the Last Supper, Jesus gave us his peace (Jn.14:27) that according to him is not like the peace offered by the world that is often based on compromises; Christ’s peace is the fruit of love, of sacrifices. Love and sacrifice are one, always together; when you love, there is sacrifice, there is pain and suffering. That is why it is love!

Parents and lovers know this very well: many times they suffer and cry in silence because of their great love for their children or beloved. It is no wonder that in the Beatitudes, Jesus called the peacemakers and the persecuted blessed because to work for peace entails persecution and division.

Photo by author, Chapel of the Holy Family, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, QC, 2017.

"God is dangerous."
-Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar (+)

Last Sunday we have reflected how Jesus used the setting of night for our vigilance because faith is tested and deepened in the darkness of life like during nighttime. And, the darker the night, the longer the night always.

But, we have so many people who have gone ahead of us in this life who have found light and life amid the darkness in life, emerging victorious in their faith in God, from the patriarchs in the Old Testament and in Jesus himself and his Apostles and saints as well.

Brothers and sisters: Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Wonderful! Jesus is the leader and perfecter of faith. Very often, we hear the gospels and the Bible speaking always of our having faith in Jesus. But, it is only here and in some instances in Paul we find Jesus having faith; how can Jesus, the Son of God have faith when he is the object of faith?

Let us remember that Jesus is truly human, truly divine. Like us, he also had faith as the gospels attest: he had faith in the Father who sent him. He is the best example of having faith, entrusting everything to the Father that he did not feel ashamed of the Cross. In that sense, Jesus is also the perfecter of faith because in him, with him and through him, we are able to walk in faith, sustain our faith in the most difficult and trying moments of life when we felt our relationships, our world falling apart because we have stood by his Cross. As we look back, we have emerged better, stronger, and most of all, joyful, free and faithful after all those trials in life. Thanks to our faith in Christ!

One of the friends of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II was the Swiss theologian and priest named Hans Urs von Balthasar who said in his 1945 book “The Heart of the World” that God is dangerous.

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Acacia trees in UP-Diliman, April 2022.

Indeed, it is very true especially when Fr. Balthasar noted how God “is inviting you to lose your soul in order to gain it. He always thinks in terms of love. He offers us the impossible… He presents his victory over death as an example to be imitated, he draws us beyond our limits, into his adventure, which is inevitably fatal.”

The blessedness of this Sunday is that Jesus had become like us to lead us the way in a life of faith, perfecting our faith in the process so that we may overcome all obstacles and trials in life like him and be with him in eternal glory in heaven in the End.

Let us keep in mind the worthy reminder of the author of the Letter to Hebrews that “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Heb.12:4). Amen.

Have a blessed, fiery week of faithful adherence in Christ!

Believing is living

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C, 07 August 2022
Wisdom 18:6-9 ><}}}*> Hebrews 11:1-2, 8-19 ><}}}*> Luke 12:35-40
Photo by author, Liputan Island, Meycauyan, Bulacan, 31 December 2021.

Everybody believes in something, even if they believe in the emptiness and nothingness of life. But, what or who we believe in makes the difference because that determines how we live.

Those who believe in financial security live in amassing and building their wealth while those who believe in something that transcends what they see and understand live pursuing lofty ideals not necessarily in religious terms like the saints but also in civic and social concerns like national heroes and reformers. There are also extremists in various forms found in different countries and organizations who believe that any lasting change in life can only be achieved by armed struggles and use of violence, destroying everything even human lives they profess to be they are building or protecting.

This Sunday we find in our readings the importance of believing in God, of having faith in him because faith is not just a belief or knowledge as an interior conviction of the intellect but a union, that is, a “communion” in God we believe in.

Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested.

Hebrews 11:1-2

It is faith that brings us into our final End in God by enabling us to “possess” already what is not yet fulfilled – eternal life! Little by little, as we live out our faith faithfully like the saints and most notably of all, Abraham as mentioned in our second reading from the Letter to the Hebrews. See how the author of Hebrews reminded us of the three events in Abraham’s life when he exemplified to us his firm faith in God.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance; he went out, not knowing where he was to go. By faith he received power to generate, even though he was past the normal age – and Sarah herself was sterile – for he thought that the one who made the promise was trustworthy. By faith Abraham, when put to the test, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promise was ready to offer his only son…He reasoned that God was able to raise even from the dead, and he received Isaac back as a symbol.

Hebrews 11:8, 11, 17, 19

Here we find Abraham as the kind of dreamer with eyes wide opened who not only believed in God but cooperated completely to realize all his promises. He dared to journey to an unknown foreign land that he was thrice blessed by God with wealth and land his heirs would inherit. Despite his old age, he held on faith in God that his son Isaac was born who became the father of Jacob also known as Israel from whom came the twelve tribes of Israel. And when Isaac was an early adult, Abraham remained faithful to God, completely surrendering Isaac to him as a sacrifice that turned out be a test that God was so delighted with faith and declared him as the father of faith.

Everyday we hear of many stories not only of highly successful people but even of simple folks we personally know who have moved heaven and earth so to speak to achieve their dreams in life.

Photo by olia danilevich on Pexels.com

Yesterday after our Baccalaureate Mass at the Our Lady of Fatima University, one of the graduates texted me, accepting my invitation as their chaplain to see me at my office in the hospital for some conversations and counseling or even confession. I was so surprised when she came at exactly 2PM and turned out to be one of my former directees in Malolos City more than ten years ago.

She first came to me after delivering her baby on her third year in college in 2006 after shifting from two other courses; as a result, she never finished college and had to work when the father of her child abandoned them. Last time we met was in 2013 when she came to visit me at Radio Veritas after my program for another series of consultations when she met another man who eventually married her and five years ago, allowed her the chance to pursue a college degree in Physical Therapy. She told me how difficult it had been for her especially with the COVID-19 pandemic that she almost gave up all hopes of earning a college degree. What kept her through these years amid having two other children with her husband who joyfully accepted her and her son from her previous relationship is her deep faith in God. And that is why she was doubly happy last Friday during our Mass when she finally found me again, telling me how our spiritual direction during her dark days have made a great impact in her spiritual journey. On Monday, she graduates with her classmates at the PICC, finally earning a college degree after graduating from high school in 2003.

Photo by author, 2017

Many times in life, not all our days are bright and shiny. So often there are thunderstorms and dark clouds and worst, dark nights that are always the longest nights too. This is the meaning of our first reading from the Book of Wisdom that recalled the first passover and exodus from Egypt of God’s chosen people.

Faith is often asserted and tested in the dark, at nighttime when all the uncertainties and dangers are most pronounced when unknown to us, God is also most present in us. And this we shall find also as the setting of the Lord’s two parables for this Sunday.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA7-News, January 2022.

Jesus continues his journey to Jerusalem and along the way since last week, he has been teaching us the need to place our trust and security in God than in material possessions, in the importance of having faith more in God than in things.

From Qoheleth we have learned last Sunday that life is vanity if not rooted in God who is our ultimate origin and end in life so that today Jesus tells us in no uncertain terms of the need to keep that in mind through two similar parables.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Gird your loins and light your lamps and be like servants who await their master’s return from a wedding, ready to open immediately when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those servants whom the master finds vigilant on his arrival. Amen, I say to you, he will gird himself, have them recline at table, and proceed to wait on them… Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

Luke 12:35-37, 39-40

It is important for us to note that before this teaching, Jesus addressed the many fears of insecurity and insufficiency of his disciples, telling them to never worry of what to eat or wear, reminding them of how animals and birds as well nature are well taken cared of by God in all its splendor and glory (Lk.12:22-34).

Our main concern is to be faithful servants of God, seeing to it that we become his hands that care for others especially the sick and the needy, striving to be fair and just in our dealings with everyone, remaining focused with the kingdom of God.

That is the meaning of the vigilant servants in the first parable whom the master finds awake and alert upon returning from a wedding feast. It is Jesus Christ himself coming again in an unexpected time and date nobody knows at the end of time; those he shall find like the vigilant servants are assured of heaven where Jesus will be the one serving them!

Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, June 2022.

Many times in our lives, we feel that God seems to have forgotten us, falling asleep and unaware of the sufferings we are going through. It is okay to feel that way sometimes but never let your guards down: be like the vigilant servants, faithful to God in prayers and in serving others, in trying to be kind and forgiving because Jesus is surely coming again to bring us with him in paradise and end all our pains and sufferings. Do not let your fears of losing, of not having enough paralyze you to make you selfish and conceited. How often Jesus had come to you through friends and strangers or situations offering you exactly what you needed most at the perfect time? That is like the master coming from a wedding who serves his servants who faithfully waited for his return. God can never be outdone in generosity.

On the other hand, the second parable has an interesting detail from the first one: the master of the house guarding his house against the thief of the night. Actually, the thief here is the master of the house, the one who acted as if he owned everything that he is always on guard against the real master who might come to take back everything.

That is sure to happen! We are just mere stewards of God. We own nothing in this world, even our very life. When the Lord comes at the end of time, or when our time comes to die, which attitude would we have, that of the vigilant servants excited for their master returning from a wedding or that master of the house afraid of the thief to take back what he had stolen?

The grace of this Sunday as we focus about the End we shall all face, it likewise reminds us of the end with a small “e” of our little sufferings here on earth, the setbacks and failures, mistakes and sins we have committed. They will all end; what is important is we live our faith faithfully in God through prayers and good deeds. And some dashes of perseverance, patience, courage and a lot of faith in God. Amen.

A blessed week to everyone!

Photo by Ms. Danna Hazel de Castro, Kiltepan Peak, Sagada, Mountain Province, 2017.