Praying to be delighted

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday of the Month in the XIXth Week in Ordinary Time, 04 June 2021
Tobit 11:5-17     ><)))'> + ><)))'> + ><)))'>     Mark 12:35-37
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

What a delightful first Friday today, O God our loving Father as we continue with our novena to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus your Son. St. Mark noticed something so special in the gospel today that made me focus my prayer on his little note.

The great crowd heard this with delight.
(Mark 12:37)

To be delighted is to be pleased, to be filled with joy.

Nothing else in this world can ever please us, give us pleasure and joy except you, O God through your Son our Lord Jesus Christ.

Too bad the scribes and your other enemies at the temple area at that time were not delighted but even irritated with your teachings and claims because they refused to accept you, not knowing you are the Lord of all they are challenging.

The great crowd were filled with joy with your words, Lord Jesus when you quoted the Book of Psalms to remind the scribes including us today who refuse to recognize you as the Christ that you are not just the descendant of the great King David but also his “lord”.

What a delight indeed to hear you speak among us and with us, O dear Jesus. Nothing else can satisfy us – nothing suffices – except you, sweet Jesus.

And so, we pray for the grace for us to imitate that great crowd with you who were delighted with your teachings: like them, may we not look far beyond and find you in our selves and among those closest to us like family and friends.

I could just imagine the great delights of Anna and Tobit when their son Tobiah returned home. More than anything else, it was having their son back again that truly mattered to them. Fulfilling his mission of finding a wife and a cure to Tobit’s blindness were just added features. Help us to value our family like Tobit and Anna.

Then Anna ran up to her son, threw her arms around him, and said to him, “Now that I have seen you again, son, I am ready to die!” And she sobbed aloud.

When Tobit saw his son, he threw his arms around him and wept. He exclaimed, “I can see you, son, the light of my eyes!”

Tobit 11:9, 13-14

How delightful are the scenes of Tobiah reunited with his parents, all so delighted being together again.

And so, we pray, dear God our Father through Jesus Christ your Son to open our eyes, cleanse our hearts, clear our minds that you first come to us through our family – through every husband and wife, every father and mother, and most especially, children.

We pray for couples and families separated by circumstances and by choice to find time to be reunited even for a while to experience you again. We pray for those living alone to be delighted even with a simple call or text of a loved one.

Delight comes only from you, Lord, who comes day in and day out in us and through us.

Please, delight the heart of the one reading this, remove the darkness and sadness looming above him/her. Amen.

Celebrating family in COVID-19

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 30 December 2020
The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Trying to relax a day after Christmas, I felt so good watching the limited BBC series at Netflix called “JAPAN with Sue Perkins”. It is so unique that it presents the Land of the Rising Sun in a different perspective by this spunky and bubbly British journalist not afraid to admit her prejudices then be rectified in this short documentary.

At the same time, Ms. Perkins presents us with the latest trends in Japan, others are good while others are not so good especially its aging population with falling birth rates and many Japanese men delaying or not getting married at all.

One solution the ingenious Japanese have found are “wives for hire” – a growing business that offers women who act as wives to unmarried men who present to their aged parents as their “wives”. One man explained to Ms. Perkins how his elderly mother enjoys more in spending time together with a “family member” like a “daughter-in-law” than just with a care-giver. They tend to converse more freely and joyfully about so many things as a “family” — at least for a day.

That is how important a family is! That is why it is called the basic unit of the society from which springs forth life itself – biologically, emotionally, and spiritually.

That is why Vatican II rightly inserted in the Christmas Season the Feast of the Holy Family to remind us of the deep character of the mystery of the Incarnation that the Son of God came into the world to save us through the family, through the husband and wife of Joseph and Mary.

It is a great reminder to us in this time when family is quickly disintegrating and maybe in a funny twist, we have in the COVID-19 pandemic a great opportunity for us to go back to our family.

Photo by author, entrance to the Flight to Egypt Cavern Church in Cairo, 2019.

Human family a creation by God, a call from God

Since the very beginning, men and women have always banded together not only as a family we know of today, a nuclear unit of father, mother, and children. It was really more of an extended family like a clan or a kin who lived together as siblings and cousins, uncles and aunts along with neighbors who all would have been in and out of the house.

Some peoples like the Hebrews do not really have the term cousins where everyone is a brother or a sister, a kin; hence, we find in the gospels Jesus being told of having brothers and sisters.

To understand this is to think of our own concepts and terms in our extended Filipino family. Like the word pinsan for cousin. When I was in kindergarten until elementary, every summer some cousins would come home to the province for vacation. We would all sleep together on the sahig (floor) with banig (local mat) like puppies or kittens together — that is, magkakapisan usually in the old house or bahay na matanda of our grandparents.

My nieces, 2017.

On the other hand, uncles and aunties refer to their nephews and nieces in Filipino as pamangkin, from the expression “para namang akin” that literally means “just like my own child”.

Both pinsan or cousin and pamangkin or nephew/niece express togetherness, of being one as a family.

But in the Bible, we find something deeper in this banding together of peoples as families sharing joys and sorrows, work and play but also coming together as a creation by God as well as a call from Him.

See how in the Ten Commandments that only the fourth commandment carries a promise from God to underscore the importance of family life and of our parents: “Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Ex.20:12).

In the assigned first reading for the Feast of the Holy Family from the Book of Sirach we find the author elaborating and reflecting further on this beautiful nature of the human family that is divine in origin and orientation. We find at its first part the emphasis on children honoring and obeying their parents, the father and mother. This instruction is then capped by a touching reflection on the solemn duty of taking care for an aging parent with all the respect and patience due him/her. Likewise, we find at its conclusion something that echoes God’s covenant, of the need to be kind and merciful to everyone especially those in need.

Kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins — a house raised in justice to you.

Sirach 3:14

In the second reading, we find several challenges to every family to be kind, merciful, forgiving and peaceful because we are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (Col.3:12). That is our identity as children of God our Father, making us members of His one, big family.

This is something many families have seemed to have forgotten due to so many concerns in life like the need to earn money, pursue one’s career that is interspersed with breaks that sometimes costly to family members like separation or migration, by choice or by circumstances.

This is one value that we hope to recover at this time of the pandemic when most parents and children are all working and studying from home. May families take this opportunities to renew their ties with one another, to pray anew together and renew or adjust their visions and dreams where they may all grow to maturity in Christ.

Photo of my mom with my two nieces, 2017.

Purifying our family in Christ

One beautiful thing that is so outstanding with the Holy Family is the fidelity of Joseph and Mary to God through temple worship, of how they sincerely and dutifully strive to fulfill all obligations stipulated by the Laws that we find reflective of Jesus in his adult life when He would come to attend synagogue worship.

When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, just as it is written in the law of the Lord… and to offer sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons, in accordance wit the dictate of the law of the Lord. Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon… and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary is mother, “Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted — and you yourself a sword will pierce — so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:22-25, 34-35

Part of the good news of this feast is for us to realize too that the Holy Family was not spared of problems and trials just like us. In our gospel today, Simeon assured Mary of her heart being pierced with a sword, of facing trials and conflicts to happen like when Jesus was lost only to be found a day later in the temple when he was 12 years old. It must have caused too much stress and worries to Mary and Joseph.

Or when Jesus finally left home to begin His public ministry when people, including relatives thought he had lost his mind in His preaching!

And finally, when He was crucified. It must have been a terrible experience for the Blessed Virgin Mother.

No family is so perfect to escape trials and conflicts but the Holy Family teaches us something so perfectly valuable that can help us resolve our many imperfections in our family — of remaining in God, of being rooted in Him who is our identity as family, as a person.

The Presentation of Jesus by Mantegna from wikipediacommons.org.

It is in the family where we first encounter and experience God, both His presence and His “absence” if we may call that.

There are times when we feel so close, so near with God especially when everything is going so well with our lives when we have everything; but when the going gets rough and tough, sometimes that is when we feel too far from God or He is totally nowhere around us.

What a paradox that it is both in the family where we first experience love and care but at the same time where we also first taste our pains and hurts, and disappointments.

But between those two extreme realities of life, that is also when we find the conviction that God is real, Who is one with us in our joys and sufferings, never leaving us.

It is during those moments when the sword pierces our hearts when we discover who is inside us really, the ones most valuable to us, the ones we look up to, the treasures we have always kept and cared.

Sometimes, it is only when the heart is pierced by the sword do we find the treasures we keep inside.

This Christmas amid a pandemic, may we find anew the more important we need in our hearts — not things but persons we care most, who remind us of our identity as blessed and beloved. This pandemic period is the most opportune time for families to resolve conflicts, face trials in the light of Jesus Christ through prayers and openness to one another. Let us not take it for granted. See it as a blessing in disguise when we are finally able to heal all those festering wounds in us that have eaten us up as persons, families and Christians.

How sad that families often compete for material things that can always be easily superseded; but if we compete for kindness, for understanding, for love, for forgiveness, then nobody loses, everybody wins.

Sometimes, true peace in the family happens when we are willing to disarm ourselves of our natural defenses so we can carry or hold Jesus into our arms like Simeon, or like Mary when our heart is pierced with the Word to expose Jesus within who is love and mercy. Amen.

Photo from Aleteia.com.

The problem with beginning

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-2 for the Soul 
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Advent Week III, 17 December 2020
Genesis 49:2, 8-10     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 1:1-17
Photo by author of sun beginning to shine over the mountain ranges Sinai Desert in Egypt, May 2019.

Yesterday we started our reflection with an old Christmas song, Do You Hear What I Hear? by Bing Crosby; today, it is Andy Williams turn to serenade us with the opening lines to the theme of the 1970 film Love Story:

Where do I begin 
To tell the story of how great a love can be 
The sweet love story that is older than the sea 
The simple truth about the love she brings to me 
Where do I start

No. I did not see that movie now a classic but I was old enough to remember its theme that became popular even for some more years during the 70’s that made Andy Williams so well-known when we were in elementary school. His song came to my mind as I grappled – which usually happened – on how to begin this reflection.

Where do I begin or how shall I begin? is one of our most common question in almost anything we start doing or telling because beginning any undertaking is always difficult. Experts have tackled it like Stephen Covey telling us to “begin with the end in sight” while Simon Sinek insists we always “start with why”.

Every beginning – like a homily or a speech, a business venture, or even an exercise program – means so much as it gives us a gist of where it is leading to, of what is going to happen.

The evangelists also wrestled with the same issue and they all have their own style in starting their gospel account but nothing beats Matthew in his most unique manner by beginning with a series of names in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. According to the late American biblical scholar Fr. Raymond Brown, he was willing to bet that if anyone is asked to tell the story of Jesus to a non-believer, no one will ever imitate Matthew by starting with Abraham begetting Isaac, Isaac is the father of…

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah became the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar…

Matthew 1:1-3
Photo by author of an oasis in the Dead Sea region of Israel, May 2017.

God the Prime Mover, the Beginning of everything

Today we shift our focus in our Advent preparations to the first coming of Jesus Christ when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Strictly speaking, the Church’s official countdown to Christmas begins only today when all our weekday readings from December 17-24 are focused on how the birth of Jesus happened.

And what a way to start this series with the gospel by Matthew that begins with “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”! The Greek is more literal in stating it as “The book of the genesis of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

That makes Matthew’s gospel so unique by starting it with names that all sound so weird to us today.
So, what’s with the names? Of course, a name is everything!

Companies and organizations pay huge amounts of money for their trademarks and logos like Coca-Cola, IBM, and Apple. Some corporate or product names have in fact entered our vocabulary like Xerox for copiers, Colgate for toothpaste and Frigidaire for refrigerators.

Every name carries a story, a meaning, a mission, even a destiny. How sad that we Filipinos rarely take this seriously especially in giving names to children that often becomes a joke or a disaster, or both. But to foreigners especially the Jewish people, a name is more than an identification but also one’s mission.

When we examine each name in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus, we discover it is just like our own family trees with some men and women not really that exceptional, even a shame and an embarrassment to the family. Behind each name we have heard is an imperfect person -except for Joseph and Mary – with so many sins and mistakes.

And that is the good news of today: God does not call the qualified but qualifies His call.

Everything begins with God – our lives and coming into being. In all eternity, God perfectly knows everything that will happen to us and yet He chose to believe in us, despite our imperfections and being prone to sin that He sent us to this world with a mission to make His Son our Lord Jesus come into the world through us, just like his ancestors.

Photo by author, Mt. St. Paul Spirituality Center, La Trinidad, Benguet, January 2020.

From the imperfect “house of King David” to Jesus Christ’s eternal kingdom

Let us take the first name mentioned by Matthew in starting his gospel, David who makes this genealogy so interesting. In fact, it was on him the whole genealogy is structured by Matthew. And we all know how imperfect was David, of how he had sinned when he took Bathsheba the wife of army officer Uriah whom he ordered placed in a position that got him killed in a battle.

But that is how God works – so unlike us! God is a God of surprises who works so unpredictably unlike us humans. Imagine after all the sex scandals with Bathsheba, God still promised an eternal kingdom coming from the house of David, that of Jesus Christ: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever” (2 Sam.7:16, first reading on Sunday and morning of Thursday).

At the end of his genealogy of Jesus, Matthew added this interesting note:

Thus the total number of of generations from Abraham to David is fourteen generations; from David to the Babylonian exile, fourteen generations; from the Babylonian exile to the Christ, fourteen generations.

Matthew 1:17

Matthew is up to something here! Why build around the history of Israel and genealogy of Jesus Christ around a person who had gravely sinned against God and others?

Most likely. Remember how Matthew experienced God’s mercy and forgiveness when Jesus came to call him while at his tax collection booth and he immediately stood and left everything behind to follow the Lord. Matthew knew well that God is not like humans who box people and label them like things.

Caravaggio’s famous painting of the call of Matthew by Jesus from wikicommons.org.

In assembling to us three sets of fourteen generations that traced the coming of Jesus Christ from Abraham structured around David, Matthew shows us how God worked through this sinful man a series of new “beginnings” in life, both in grace and in sin. See the genealogy rising from Abraham to David, then its decline and descent from Solomon to the Babylonian Exile, and then rising again to the advent of Jesus.

Now try to imagine how great and loving is our God and Father who chose to believe in David, a person just like us with many imperfections and prone to sins! See His power and holiness in setting any sinful situation for new beginnings of grace and blessings.


Sometimes,
God uses our occasions of sins
as new beginnings 
of His grace and blessings.

One thing I have realized in life is that our most unforgettable moments happen either when we are nearest, or farthest away from God.

This is very amazing. Consider when are we closest to God? Most often that is when we were high and good, feeling blessed and loved, when healthy and successful that were ironically the times we rarely thought of God. We only remember those moments as our closest with God after being away in fact from Him!

And when are we farthest from God? Quickly we say when we were deep in sin, when lost, or when unloved and misunderstood.

Between these two moments, it is most often when we are farthest from God that is always most unforgettable, the ones we remember always, the ones that have left the deepest cut in us because those times in turn have become occasions for us to begin anew in God!

Like David. Or Matthew known before as Levi the tax collector.

Photo by author of the Lake of Galilee shortly after sunrise, May 2019.

That is how God sometimes would make it for us to begin anew in Him! See how at the first set of fourteen generations from Abraham to David, we find the whole history of Israel so close with God punctuated by Egypt and Exodus when their sins “turned” into their favor. In the second set of fourteen generations from Solomon to the Babylonian exile, the Israelites sank into their lowest point in history when led by their kings they turned away from God, worshipping idols. But, God did not abandon them as we see in the third set of fourteen generations when things got better as the Israelites returned to God and to their Promised Land reaching its high point in Jesus Christ’s birth.

God is the beginning of everything and even if we try to “end” with our many sins what He had began, He always finds ways to begin anew even when we are so far away from Him.

This is also the meaning of the Jacob’s choice for Judah over his other sons in being the tribe to continue his family line leading to the fulfillment of the Davidic lineage in Jesus Christ. It was from Judah came the name of their religion “Judaism” even if Judah was not the best and holiest of Jacob’s sons. Joseph the Dreamer must have been the wisest choice as more suitable to have been blessed by their father or by God himself but, that is not the way of God.

By starting his gospel with the line “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”, Matthew shows us God’s total power and goodness as source and beginning of all good things who also has the last and final say in everything.

In the genealogy of Jesus, we are reminded that every day is a new beginning in God, right in our darkness and sin, in our sickness and pandemic. David like Judah may have sinned so great before God but His mercy and love proved greater than their sins that they were able to rise again to become better and holier in His grace.

That’s one great beginning we can start right here, right now in our Simbang Gabi! A blessed Thursday to you! Amen.

Photo by Marc Angelo Nicolas Carpio, our Parish at night, 29 November 2020.

Priesthood is loving Jesus first

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II on the occasion of 
the First Year Anniversary of Ordination 
to the Priesthood of Rev. Fr. Howard Tarrayo
Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Malolos City, 10 December 2020
Photo by author of Lake Tiberias (Galilee) at sunrise, May 2019.

This preaching should have been last year.

Fr. Howard was the very first person to have invited me to be his predicador at his Primera Missa Solemne while still a seminarian — and that is why I think he was delayed for almost two years before getting ordained exactly a year ago today!

That gospel scene you have chosen for this occasion at the shores of Lake Tiberias is something that happens everyday in our lives as priests, from day one of ordination way into our old age in with Jesus asking us, like, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” (Jn.21:17)

Priesthood is essentially loving Jesus Christ first of all. That is why Jesus had to ask Simon Peter thrice with the same question, “Do you love me?” because we have to love him first before we can truly follow him.

When the priesthood or the Call becomes the very core and center of our lives and not Jesus our Caller, sooner or later, we replace Christ that we become the Lord and Master in our parish, in our ministry.

Today, we are celebrating Fr. Howard your remaining in love with Jesus, of loving Him first, a year after your ordination and we pray that every year, it will always be the very reason you celebrate your ordination anniversary.


When they had finished breakfast,
Jesus said to Simon Peter, 
"Simon, son of John, do you love me
more than these?"
He said to him, "Yes, Lord, you know 
that I love you." 
He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
(John 21:15)

Loving Jesus first is growing deeper in our prayer life in him. People who love are always together; they have a ritual or a schedule that like the fox telling the Little Prince, an hour before their appointed meeting, his heart is already beating for him, excited with his presence that he is coming.

Photo by author, parish sacristy, 05 December 2020.

It is my hope that during this pandemic we priests have rediscovered the value and beauty of having that seminary schedule during our formation years that must have ingrained in us discipline. Like schedules, prayer is a discipline. Love goes through a process, it matures, becomes more disciplined. That is why a disciple is not only a follower but also a disciplined one, a true lover!

It is good to bond with brother priests and friends and family once in a while but not every night or every other night that we have practically made every Starbucks outlet a parish or even a diocese where 1/3 of the clergy get together religiously (pun intended)! Any loving husband would always be home at night to be with his wife. The same is true with every priest — be home at night in your parish to be with Jesus at prayer. He awaits you, He misses you!

Whenever people ask me what is the most difficult part of priesthood, I always tell them it is praying every day. And I mean real prayer when we have to strip ourselves naked before God in our truest selves. Kaya sabihin man nila walanghiya o salvahe ang sino mang pari, pero kung araw-araw lalo na sa gabi siya ay nananalangin, mabuting pari pa rin siya kasi maski minsan, nagiging totoo siya sa sarili at sa Diyos. And masama kapag hindi na siya nagdarasal nang tunay, iyon ang simula ng pagkaligaw ng sino mang pari.

Whatever is the fruit of our prayer, that is our homily and that is when all tests happen: the moment we deliver a homily, people measure us if we “walk our talk”. The priest is the homily himself. When a priest stops celebrating Mass, most especially refuses to give homilies, maybe Father is no longer praying. Baka may iba na siyang mahal kesa kay Jesus.

Remaining in love with Jesus is being a man of prayer.


He then said to him a second time,
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
He said to him, 
"Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
(John 21:16)

Loving Jesus first means keeping in mind that everything is a gift from Jesus, that whatever we have, whatever we share, whether material or spiritual things, is always from Christ. We have nothing except Him. Even if sometimes we feel bad in our ministry like going on a sick call when we are so tired or blessing a dead cat or hearing confessions of a parishioner who have maligned you, just do it! Whatever you give them, it is not yours but Jesus’!

Photo by author, parish sacristy, 05 December 2020.

Huwag maging maramot, Father. Maging mapagmahal, matulunging, maunawain, mapagpasensiya, mapagbigay, mapagpatawad — kasi ano mang pagmamahal, tulong, pang-unawa, pagpapasensiya, kapatawaran o ano mang ating maibibigay kanino man ay hindi naman talagang atin kungdi kay Kristo at Kristo pa rin!

Here lies the danger when we are so focused with our call or vocation when we feel the one who must be understood and cared for — we turn the ones being served instead of the one serving! Kasi feeling natin magaling tayo kaya tayo naging pari! Para tayong artista at politiko na “FGLG”: feeling guapo, looking gago. Parang lahat may utang na loob sa atin. Kaya kung magmayabang tayo: ako nagpagawa niyan, ako nakaisip niyan, ako, ako, ako…. Nasaan si Jesus? Nandun sa tabernakulo, nabuburo.

I wish to share with you a prayer I have written during our retreat with a Cenacle sister at the Theologate when we were in third year: “Lord Jesus Christ, you have given me with so much and I have given so little; teach me to give more of my self and more of You to others. Amen.”


He said to him a third time, 
"Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was distressed that he had said to him
a third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him,
"Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you."
Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep."
And when he had said this, he said to him,
"Follow me."
(John 21:17, 19)

Father Howard, we have learned in Holy Matrimony that a man and a woman marries not only each other but also their families; the same is very true in priesthood. Loving Jesus first means the priest’s family must love Jesus more than their priest son and Kuya Pari or Tito Pari.

Profession of faith by Rev. Fr. Howard with his mother and sister before Bishop Dennis, 10 December 2019.

Nanay Nelia and Mary Grace… kung mahal ninyo si Father Howard, mas mahalin ninyo si Jesus. Ang pagmamahal ng pamilya sa kanilang anak o kapatid na pari ay naroon din sa kanilang higit na pagmamahal kay Jesus. Kapag si Jesus ang minahal ninyo una at higit sa lahat katulad naming mga pari, manalig kayo lalong mamahalin ni Jesus si Father. Hindi siya pababayaan.

We are told that after this third question by Jesus “Do you love me?”, Simon Peter was distressed because he remembered how he had denied the Lord three times after His arrest on Holy Thursday evening.

What can be more distressing especially at this time of the pandemic for us priests than be caught between our family and ministry?

You were still preparing for your Diaconal ordination last year, Father Howard when your mother had a stroke, then followed by the death of your father. It must have been so difficult, so painful. But looking back, did God ever forget you, Father?

Ate Nelia and Mary Grace, give Father Howard to Jesus. Huwag ninyo siyang hahanapan. Magkusa na kayo sa inyong sarili kasi iba piniling buhay ni Father. And I address this to every parent, brother and sister, relatives and friends of Fr. Howard and every priest. Huwag ninyo siyang hanapan. Kung mayroon man kayong hahanapin palagi kay Father Howard, iyon si Jesus. Always Jesus, only Jesus.

There is still something more “distressing” for us priests with our family that I wish to share with you, Father Howard. When Jesus told us to leave our father and mother, brothers and sisters behind to follow Him, he never meant to turn our backs from them. We still have to love them but more on a different level as silent witnesses of Christ.

The most difficult part of our ministry is ministering to our own family with all our biases and past histories before us. We are so familiar with each other that inevitably, these would surely show on many occasions when least expected. Be on guard, for the pendulum swings to extremes when we sometimes become so lax or so harsh with them.

Most “distressing” is when Jesus asks us “Do you love me?” while we continue to hold on to the pains and hurts, frustrations and disappointments our families have inflicted on us.

It is in our own families when we are asked to be more like St. Francis of Assisi, of preaching the gospel, speaking only when necessary.

Father Howard, be the first to understand and to embrace the strains and the past in your family; Jesus called you despite your imperfect family to make you perfect and eventually, through your life of total love for Him, perfect your family too.

It is very difficult to love, most especially our Lord Jesus, Father Howard. How I wished you have never asked me to do this because so many times I have failed Jesus. And continues to fail Him, not loving him that much.

But that is exactly what happened at the shores of Tiberias that morning after breakfast when Jesus asked Simon Peter three times, “Do you love me?”

Don’t worry, Father. Jesus knows everything how much we love Him. You are never alone with Jesus and us. Let us keep saying “yes, Jesus, I love you” with our brother priests every day, specially during anniversaries like this. Amen.

God bless you more, Father Howard!

Jesus in our relationships

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XXX, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 October 2020
Ephesians 5:21-33     +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +     Luke 13:18-21  
Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2018.

Brothers and sisters: Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Ephesians 5:21

What a beautiful admonition to us all this day by St. Paul and a wonderful prayer too to you, O God our Father that we need to pray more often in our world where relationships are getting complicated, very fleeting, and sometimes misleading and hurting.

May Jesus Christ be revered as basis and foundation of our every relationship in life so that the ties that bind us as couples, families, siblings and society may become more human, more loving, and more faithful.

So often, we look down upon your words as too old-fashioned and even outdated for the present situation like the defined codes of relationships St. Paul talks about in his Letter to the Ephesians; but, the sad truth is we have only changed the language nuances to make us sound more just these days without really removing the old obligations of the weaker ones with the stronger ones, like wives to husband, children to parents, and slaves to masters.

Grant us wisdom through the Holy Spirit to base all our relationships only in Jesus Christ who had come to bring us closer to you, God our Father.

May we find the value of many little things we take for granted like respect and being fair so essential in our relationships with everyone beginning in our homes, in our family circles where the kingdom of heaven always begins. Amen.

Dalangin para sa mga Ina sa paggunita kay Santa Monica

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-26 ng Agosto 2020
Larawan nina Sta. Monica at San Agustin mula sa Google.
O Santa Monica,
matimtimang ina ni San Agustin
tulungan mong makarating aming dalangin
sa Diyos Ama nating mahabagin
na Kanya sanang pagpalain, ibigay mga hiling
ng lahat ng ina sa Kanya dumaraing
sa araw-araw na mga pasanin at gawain;
pagaanin kanilang mga tiisin
pahirin ang mga luha sa kanilang mga mata
ibalik ang sigla at tuwa sa kanilang mga mukha
samahan sa kanilang pangungulila
lalo na mga biyuda at nawalan ng anak;
higit sa lahat, Santa Monica
iyong ipanalangin mga ina na katulad mo
mapagbago asawa at anak na barumbado
tularan iyong pananampalataya at pag-asa
kay Kristo Hesus na nagkaloob sa atin 
ng Kanyang Ina si Maria
upang ating maging Ina
na siyang iyong ginaya 
at tinularan hanggang kamatayan.
Amen.
Larawan ng painting ni Titian ng “Assumption of the Virgin” (1518) mula sa wikidata.org.

To be known and still be loved

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, 22 July 2020
2 Corinthians 5:14-17 >><}}}*> >><}}}*> >><}}}*> John 20:1-2, 11-18
Painting by Giotto of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ appearing to St. Mary Magdalene from commons.wikimedia.org.

Dearest Lord Jesus Christ:

Today as I prayed on the feast of your beloved Saint Mary Magdalene, my sights were focused on your beautiful exchange of names on that Easter morning at your tomb.

It is so lovely and so deep, and very personal for all of us whom you love so much despite our many sins like St. Mary Magdalene.

When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus there, but did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” She thought it was the gardener and said to him, “Sir, if you carried him away, tell me where you laid him, and I will take him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni,” which means Teacher.

John 20:14-16

You called her by her name, “Mary” and she called you by your title “Rabbouni” – what a beautiful scene of two people loving each other so deeply, so truly! You – humbly and lovingly accepting the sinner, and she – submitting herself to you as disciple.

You have expelled seven demons from her, you have known her so well even her darkest secrets and sins, and despite all these knowledge, Lord Jesus, the more you have loved her that you called her by the sweetest word she could ever hear in her life, “Mary”.

The same with us, sweet Jesus: every day you call us by our names, each one of us as a person, an individual, a somebody not just a someone. You love us so much in spite and despite of everything. We are not just a number or a statistic to you but a person with whom you relate personally.

From Google.

Help us to realize this specially when darkness surrounds us, when self-doubts and mistrust abound in us without realizing your deep trust in us, in our ability to rise again in you and follow you.

Teach me to trust you more and love you more like St. Mary Magdalene, to give and offer my self to you totally as yours, calling you “Rabbouni” or Teacher and Master.

Let me give up whatever I still keep to myself, whatever I refuse to surrender so that I may enjoy the intimacy you offer me as a friend, a beloved, and a family in the Father.

What a joy indeed to be like St. Mary Magdalene, fully known and fully loved by you, dear Jesus.

May I learn to know and love others too like you so I may proclaim you to them. Amen.

Discipline and tenderness

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 21 July 2020
Micah 7:14-15, 18-20 >><)))*> ] + [ <*(((><< Matthew 12:46-50
Photo by author of sheep grazing at Sacred Heart Novitiate in Novaliches, QC, 2018.

What a beautiful prayer today to you, O God our Father by your prophet Micah:

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock of your inheritance that dwells apart in a woodland, in the midst of Carmel. Let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old; as in the days when you came from the land of Egypt, show us wonderful signs.

Micah 7:14-15

Shepherd us like a true father, God, the old fashioned and right way symbolized by your staff: strong and sturdy to discipline us especially when we wander far from you, and yet at the same time, so tender and forgiving – full of clemency as Micah mentioned – when we are lost or stuck in a cliff or a crevice.

This is probably the one combination we are terribly missing these days, discipline and tenderness, the cornerstone of formation in every family expressed in the adage from the Sacred Scriptures, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” which the modern society strongly objects and frowns upon:

St. John Paul II waves to well-wishers in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican in 1978 when elected as Pope, holding his staff, symbol of his being a shepherd.

He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him takes care to chastise him.

Proverbs 13:24

Discipleship or being a disciple is primarily about discipline, of following not only the steps of the Lord and Master but also his ways.

From the word discipulos or to follow came the words follower and discipline alike.

Jesus Christ your Son perfectly said it in our gospel today when he rightly claimed that “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt.13:50).

Give us the grace, O Lord, to take the right path anew of discipline to form our moral backbones tempered with your tenderness and mercy so we may truly work for a just and humane society here on earth so that your kingdom may finally come! Amen.

Bago ang lahat, pag-ibig

Lawiswis ng Salita ni P. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Ika-29 ng Mayo 2020

Sa gitna ng aking pananalangin
minsa'y sumagi kung maari
itong alaala o gunita ay himayin 
upang tukuyin at tuntunin
kailan nga ba nagsimula
tayo natutong manalig at sumandig
sa Panginoong Diyos natin?
Napaka-hirap alamin
simula ng pananampalataya natin
ngunit marahil kung ating tutuusin
bago ang lahat ay nalaman natin
unang naranasan higit sa lahat ay ang pag-ibig.
Ang Diyos ay pag-ibig
at kaya tayo nakapagmamahal 
ay dahil una Niya tayong minahal;
kaya nga pag-ibig ang suma total
ng lahat ng pag-iral sapagkat
ito rin ang wika at salita ng Diyos 
nang lahat ay kanyang likhain.
Bago nabuo kamalayan natin,
naroon muna karanasan ng pag-ibig
na siyang unang pintig sa atin ay umantig
sa sinapupunan ng ating ina
hanggang tayo ay isilang niya at lumago sa ating pamilya.
Bago tayo maniwala
nauna muna tayong minahal
kaya tayo ay nakapagmahal
at saka nanampalataya;
kung mahihimay man na parang hibla
ng isang tela itong ating buhay
natitiyak ko na sa bawat isa
ang tanging matitira 
na panghahawakan niya
ay yaong huling sinulid 
na hindi na kayang mapatid
sa atin nagdurugtong, naghahatid bilang magkakapatid.
Kaya palagi po ninyong ipabatid,
Panginoong Diyos ng pag-ibig
sa mga isipan naming makikitid at makalimutin
mga pagkakataon ng iyong bumabalong na pagmamahal
kailan ma'y hindi masasaid
habang bumubuhos sa bawat isa sa amin;
huwag namin itong sarilinin o ipunin
bagkus ipamahagi, ipadama sa kapwa namin.
Itong pag-ibig na ipinadama sa amin
ang siyang maaasahang katibayan
nagpapatunay mayroong Diyos na buhay at umiiral
na sa atin ay dumatal bago ang lahat, sa Kanyang pagmamahal.

Stay home, save lives in Christ like moms

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Easter Week V-A, 10 May 2020

Acts of the Apostles 6:1-7 ><)))*> 1 Peter 2:4-9 ><)))*> John 14:1-12

Photo by Ezra Acayan for gettyimages.com, 2020.

Our Sunday celebration today is a confluence of things that perfectly jibe with our situation during this pandemic – the quarantine call worldwide to “stay home, save lives”, Mother’s Day, and Jesus telling us in the gospel we are one family going “home” to the Father.

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

John 14:1-3
Photo from istock.com

Home is where the heart is

One good thing with this COVID-19 pandemic is how it has driven home so hard one lesson modern man has forgotten: the importance of home, of family life.

It is hoped that during this quarantine period, we do not merely stay home to prevent spread of corona virus but most of all to build anew our relationships in our family that we have neglected in our pursuits of so many things in life.

A home is more than a house; it is about relationships, of love and acceptance, kindness and forgiveness.

From Google.

Our Filipino word says it all – tahanan, from the root tahan which is to stop crying.

Tahanan or home is where you stop crying because that is where you are loved and accepted, safe and secured from any harm or danger.

Jesus assures us today in the gospel that we have a home in heaven where there is a room for everyone. This is the reason the same gospel text is the favorite in funeral Masses.

But there is something more about heaven than being a house with many rooms.

It is good that our lectionary used the modern translation of the Greek word “monai” or rooms into “dwelling places” because Jesus in this passage is not merely referring to a place or location but more specifically of a relationship with him in the Father.

In fact, the word “monai” is used only twice in the New Testament, both in the fourth Gospel: at this part and later when Jesus reprimands Philip in verse 23, “Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him”.

Home and room are a dwelling — a relationship and a privilege of abiding in God’s presence!

Lent 2019 in our parish.

When Jesus said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be”, he never meant it to be taken in the literal sense because if it were so, that would be the only thing he has been doing in heaven these past 2000 years!

What Jesus is telling us along with the Twelve at that time is that by his going to his Passion, Death, and Resurrection after their supper, we are able to dwell, to abide in the loving presence of the Father even here on earth in this very life.

Such was the immense love of Christ when he assured the Apostles, including us in this time of pandemic to “Do not let your hearts be troubled” because his pasch is for our own benefit as our passageway into being with the Father in Jesus when we join him at the Cross.

Remember our gospel last week of Jesus as the “gate of the sheep” because he is “the way and the truth and the life” that now comes into full circle in the Last Supper.

It is in our sharing in his sufferings and pains on the Cross we enter heaven, we dwell in his loving presence that he also becomes manifest in us in this life.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

Mothers know best

Connecting now our quarantine slogan of “stay home, save lives” and Sunday gospel with Mother’s Day celebration today, we are reminded of the importance of ties and relationships that we keep especially in this period of pandemic.

In the Old Testament, God is revealed to us like a mother because she is the epitome of fidelity:

“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of my hands I have written your name.”

Isaiah 49:15-16

How unfortunate that again, the song based on this part of Isaiah “Hindi Kita Malilimutan” (I Will Never Forget You) has become a favorite song in funeral Masses when in fact it is best sung in weddings because it is a pledge of love and fidelity by God who is like a mother.

The mother is the premiere homemaker also referred as the “light of the home” who seem to always have that magic touch in everything, in turning out little things, even scraps, into something lovely and beautiful, and delicious!

Her love and dedication can never be measured and nothing can ever make her happy except the abiding love and presence of her husband and children.

Photo by author, painting of “Our Lady of the Grotto in Bethlehem”, May 2019.

And we all know of our mother’s presence that transcends time and space, not to mention their intuition that defies logic but always true!

No wonder, there is a Jewish saying that “God created mothers because he cannot be everywhere”.

When we are sick, when we feel low, mothers know them all. Nothing can be hidden or kept secret with our moms because they are a home, a dwelling place for each of us all.

In the first reading we have heard the “ordination” of the first seven deacons of the church whose primary task was to take care of the widows as the Apostles were busy proclaiming the Gospel.

Eventually, it paved the way for the many services and ministries in the church that have become the clearest signs of God’s presence in the world. There is no need to publicize the countless efforts of the Church in reaching out to all the marginalized sectors of the society in the whole world that is truly a sign of her being a mother to all.

Now more than ever, in this time of the corona pandemic, we in the Church are challenged to continue being the signs of the living and loving presence of Jesus Christ in the world that has become so materialistic, less humane, even loveless and so unkind.

Let us be a mother, a living and loving presence of God so that people may find a home in us in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. Amen.

A blessed happy Mothers’ Day to all moms!

Photo by author of the entrance to the original chapel of Our Lady of Grotto in Bethlehem, May 2019.