Prayer to work centered on the Lord like St. Joseph

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Memorial of St. Joseph the Worker, 01 May 2021
Genesis 1:26-2:3   <*(((>< + ><)))*>   Matthew 13:54-58
Photo by author, site of St. Joseph’s workshop in Nazareth beneath the chapel in his honor, May 2017.

God our loving Father, we praise and thank you for the gift of St. Joseph whom you have called to be the husband of Mary and the foster father of your Son Jesus Christ here on earth. In him, you have shown us the value of sharing in your work to nurture earth and its resources.

Most of all, in St. Joseph you have taught us to work centered on our Lord Jesus Christ by integrating work with family and with fatherhood to become truly a provider not only of food, clothing and other material needs but most of all in providing love and guidance to the family.

In St. Joseph, the motivation and the purpose of work is solely to serve Jesus Christ which is very evident in the gospel today.

Jesus came to his native place
and taught the people in their synagogue.
They were astonished and said,
"Where did this man get such wisdom and mighty deeds?
Is he not the carpenter's son?"
(Matthew 13:54-55)

How beautiful that in the “wisdom and mighty deeds” displayed by Jesus, the people remembered St. Joseph the carpenter – what a marvelous job he must have done in forming and providing for our Lord!

He must have worked diligently for you, dear God, never focusing attention to himself so unlike these days when we have categories of workers like those doing “white collar jobs” and “blue collar jobs”.

Dearest God our Father, in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic when so many people have lost work and are now suffering the adverse effects of quarantine, we pray in the most special way for our workers to please protect them from all harm and sickness especially those working in the hospital.

We pray for those trying to find work these days so they may continue to provide for their families.

Photo by author, Chapel of St. Joseph, Nazareth, Israel, May 2017.

Open our hearts on this year of St. Joseph as proclaimed by Pope Francis last December 8 on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as patron of the universal church:

The crisis of our time, which is economic, social, cultural and spiritual, can serve as a summons for all of us to rediscover the value, the importance and necessity of work for bringing about a new “normal” from which no one is excluded. Saint Joseph’s work reminds us that God himself, in becoming man, did not disdain work. The loss of employment that affects so many of our brothers and sisters, and has increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, should serve as a summons to review our priorities. Let us implore Saint Joseph the Worker to help us find ways to express our firm conviction that no young person, no person at all, no family should be without work!

Pope Francis, “Patris Corde” #6

O most chaste St. Joseph, pray for us! Amen.

Loving “with a Father’s heart” like St. Joseph

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe-3 for the Soul
by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II 
Friday, Advent Week III, 18 December 2020
Genesis 49:2, 8-10     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Matthew 1:1-17
Photo from Vatican News, St. Joseph and the Child Jesus, 14 December 2020.

Today we continue the second part of Matthew’s genealogy that ended yesterday with a marked shift in its structure of begetting: “Eleazar became the father of Matthan, Matthan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ” (Mt.1:15-16).

Matthew now fortifies this fact and conviction that Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the promise to the Patriarchs, the Son of God who became human like us. See his solemn pronouncement about the coming of Jesus Christ:

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ cam about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Jospeh, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:18-19

It is so timely that on this rare occasion when we reflect on Joseph’s role in the coming of Jesus Christ that Pope Francis recently declared December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021 as the “Year of Saint Joseph” in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the declaration of the beloved saint as Patron of the Universal Church with his Apostolic Letter “Patris Corde” (With a Father’s Heart).

A known devotee of Saint Joseph who popularized in 2015 during his visit to the country the image of the “Sleeping Saint Joseph”, Pope Francis said in writing Patris Corde how the COVID-19 pandemic has helped us see more clearly the importance of “ordinary” people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day.

The Holy Father explained that the “ordinary” people like those who kept our lives going especially during the lockdowns resemble Saint Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” who nonetheless played “an incomparable role in the history of salvation” (Vatican News, 12 December 2020).

Let us reflect on two beautiful traits of St. Joseph that made him love Jesus and Mary with a father’s heart according to Pope Francis: creatively courageous and being in the shadows.

Photo from Vatican News, 12 December 2020.

Saint Joseph as a creatively courageous father

In describing Joseph as a “creatively courageous father”, Pope Francis showed us his deep devotion to this great saint described by Matthew as a “righteous man” or holy man who obeys the Laws of God.

Having courage is more than being able to do death-defying acts that is more on physical strength; courage is a spiritual virtue, a spiritual strength when we do extraordinary things because of higher ideals and values like love and gaining eternal life in Jesus Christ.

According to Pope Francis, “creative courage emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had” (Patris Corde, 5).

The word courage is from the Latin “cor” for heart which is the seat of our being. To have courage according to the late Fr. Henri Nouwen means “to speak from the heart, to listen to our heart, and to act from our heart” when we dare to lose ourselves because of love.

A creative person is always someone who is deeply in love with another person or with one’s craft, art, career or whatever passion. See how people so in love become so creative that they can write songs and poems, do wonderful works, and accomplish so many wonderful things.

A “creatively courageous” person like Saint Joseph is someone so deeply in love with Mary and with God: after learning the circumstances surrounding Mary’s pregnancy, Matthew tells us “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Mt.1:24).

Photo by author, Gaudete Sunday 2020.

Matthew tells us how Saint Joseph from the very start has always been creatively courageous when he decided to quietly divorce Mary after learning of her pregnancy: here we find Saint Joseph not only very courageous to face the bitter truth about Mary having a baby not his but also very creative in the sense that because of his great love for her, he did not want her exposed to extreme shame and public humiliation in breaking the seal of their betrothal.

His love for Mary found ways to spare her all the pains and hurts that may result if found with a baby not his; but after learning the truth, the more we find him creatively courageous when Joseph found so many ways to save Mother and Child from all harm and even death.

See that when Joseph accepted Mary, Jesus came forth to us while at the same time, when Joseph accepted God through the angel as expression of his deep faith and love, he took Mary as wife.

And this is what Pope Francis further explains in Patris Corde that at the end of every account in which Saint Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up and takes Jesus and Mary who are the most precious treasure of our faith.

Taking Jesus and Mary like Saint Joseph as creatively courageous calls us Christians to always love the Church and the sacraments and charity, and most of all in loving the Church, we also love the poor for whom Jesus came and Mary identified herself with in her Magnificat.

In this time of the pandemic, we are called to creatively courageous in finding Jesus among those people too familiar with us and those so different from us because too often, they are the people we always take for granted, those too close to us and the strangers.

Being creatively courageous in this time of the pandemic means also being more sensitive with others especially in our words and actions that many times lack any sympathy or empathy with those living at the margins like the poor and the sick, those living alone, and those forgotten by families and by society.

Saint Joseph, a father in the shadows

I love the way Pope Francis started his Apostolic Letter about Saint Joseph because it is something very much alike with Matthew’s unique style in beginning his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus: the Holy Father began by citing how Joseph loved Jesus according to the gospels “WITH A FATHER’S HEART” written in all caps!

Pope Francis must be stressing to us these days of the need to have a father’s heart which is also rarely heard because most often, the heart is more associated with the mother. But that is what the world precisely needs now, a father’s heart like that of God our Father.

In every exercise of our fatherhood, we should always keep in mind that it has nothing to do with possession, but is rather a “sign” pointing to a greater fatherhood. In a way, we are all like Joseph: a shadow of the heavenly Father, who “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). And a shadow that follows his Son.

Pope Francis, Patris Corde, 7
Photo is painting on acrylic (48×96) by Bulakenyo artist Aris Bagtas called “Luklukan ng Karunungan” (Seat of Wisdom) displayed at the second floor of the Library of the Immaculate Conception Major Seminary at Guiguinto, Bulacan.  A lively and beautiful rendition by Aris of Mary teaching her Son Jesus Christ while at the background is Joseph looking at them.  Used with permission.

To be with a heart of the father like God’s is to be “most chaste” like Saint Joseph which the Holy Father said is more than a sign of affection but the summation of an attitude that is the opposite of possessiveness.

Chastity is freedom from possessiveness in every sphere of one’s life. Only when love is chaste, is it truly love. A possessive love ultimately becomes dangerous: it imprisons, constricts and makes for misery. God himself loved humanity with a chaste love; he left us free even to go astray and set ourselves against him. The logic of love is always the logic of freedom, and Joseph knew how to love with extraordinary freedom. He never made himself the centre of things. He did not think of himself, but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Pope Francis, Patris Corde

I am so glad that Pope Francis mentioned the need to be “most chaste” as opposite of possessiveness because there is an ongoing crisis in fatherhood among us these days. Not just to biological fathers but also to fathers in the other institutions especially the Church.

Are we not priests in deep trouble with chastity these days not only with the scourge of sexual scandals and misconduct this century but also in how we have been lording it over in our parishes that we have remained an institution seen more in terms of power and control that we have never evolved to Avery Dulles’ other models of the Church like a community of disciples?

Are we not also guilty in the Church like fathers in the family and other institutions who “possessed” those below them, totally forgetting it is the Lord’s vineyard, that we are His stewards tasked to lead our flock to growth and maturity when all we think of is our own prestige and popularity that Jesus Christ is forgotten and put to the sidelights because we feel so good, so great?

In this time of pandemic amid the many temptations of social media, we priests must pause before doing all those online projects to keep in mind that we are shadows of the fatherhood of God, that like Saint Joseph, it is best for us to work in silence and as much as possible be at the background because we remain the shadows of the Son.

Fatherhood in the real and Christian sense is being a shadow not only of God the Father but also of his Son, Jesus Christ. Like John the Baptist, fathers must learn to decrease so that Jesus may increase.

Photo by author of the Chapel of St. Joseph in Nazareth (2017); below is the ancient site of his carpentry shop where Jesus grew up as a child.

Lately I have been dreaming of my late father due to so many problems coming my way. When people ask me about my vocation story, asking how it all started, I have always considered it all began with my dad. He never asked me to become a priest nor even taught me how to pray but I grew up seeing him pray daily before our altar before leaving for work and upon coming home. How I love waking up to the scent burning candles wafting through our home as he always lit candles at the altar and our grotto outside. It was from him that I learned that lesson I taught my students to have a rosary in the pocket so we may pray anywhere, any time.

The only other thing my dad taught me by personally telling me was to study hard so that we could be of service to the people and never a burden to the society.

I think that is the best thing any father can do — to form their children into another shadow of the Lord, not necessarily be like them.

A blessed day specially to all Fathers and dads!

“Make It With You” cover by Ben&Ben (January 2020)

Lord My Chef Sunday Music by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 21 June 2020

A blessed happy Father’s Day to all the great dads of the world, especially those who have gone ahead of us and still watching us, guiding us, inspiring us.

Like David Gates who composed our Sunday Music today “Make It With You” in 1970, how I wish I could “make it to the other side climbing rainbows” to be with my dad even for a while to share him my joys and accomplishments, thanking him for all the love he had showered me with.

Hey have you ever tried
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But, baby here goes

According to an interview I have read last year which I can no longer remember where, Gates had admitted that he wrote this song primarily for his late father, of how he wished his dad were still around to see him successful as a composer and a musician.

It was only during its recording when they fine-tuned his composition to make it a love song that eventually became the theme song of so many couples and lovers during the 70’s up to this time that the popular group Ben&Ben made a cover early this year for a movie or a series.

See how the song is not just a flight of fantasy or a dream but something so real within, something those of us who are so close with our dads that even if they are now in eternal rest, we can still feel their presence among us.

Dreams they're for those who sleep
Life is for us to keep
And if you're wond'ring
What this song is leading to

I want to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl

In our Sunday Gospel today, we find Jesus telling us not to be afraid in fulfilling our missions in life for he is always with us, ensuring that “we make it through” with him and in him.

That is what makes a dad so special: he is full of courage, facing every fear in life to ensure his family can make it through in this life.

And just maybe, dads are always the first to go to heaven because even in eternal life, they still see to it “we make it through” here on earth and to eternity, but not so soon.

Life can be short or long
Love can be right or wrong
And if I choose the one
I'd like to help me through

I'd like to make it with you
I really think that we can make it, girl

Cheers to all the dads who face all fears, both here and hereafter! Amen.

*Photos of my dad Wilfredo Sr. who died June 17, 2000, the 61st birthday of my mom. He is most happy with my mom with whom he is so faithful.

Best Gifts of Christmas, II

Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 28 December 2019

Italian artist Giorgione’s “Adoration of the Shepherds” (1510) showing an intimate scene set up against a distant landscape. The shepherds’ gently kneeling and bowing their heads down show their humility and fascination with the Infant Jesus while the long road behind them shows the long and tiring journey they have taken before reaching their destination.

We continue with our enumeration of the best gifts of Christmas which is above all the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. And because of his coming as human like us, we have come to share in his dignity and glory, thus, making us also the best gifts to share and receive every Christmas!

We await Christmas every year because we await Jesus Christ, the most beloved person of all we can know and have as friend.

We wait only for persons, not things.

Waiting is beautiful because we never wait alone. There is always another person waiting with us, waiting for us. And when we finally come and meet with the other person also awaiting us, then we become present, a gift for one another.

In our presence with each other comes the wonderful gift of intimacy.

“God became a human being so that in one person you could both have something to see and something to believe.”

St. Augustine, Sermon 126, 5
The spot where Jesus Christ is believed to have been born now covered and protected by this hole under the main altar of the Church of the Nativity of the Lord in Bethlehem. May 2019

Christmas is a story about persons called by God to bring us his Son Jesus Christ. It is a living story that continues to our own time. Here are some of the best gifts of Christmas coming from the gift of our personhood.

  1. The gift of family. Christmas happens in a family of husband and wife and children. Very much like Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. Remove one and the Nativity scene becomes incomplete. Let us be thankful for our family, let us pray for the unity of our family. When Jesus was lost at the age of 12, Joseph and Mary decided to return to Jerusalem – symbolizing God – and eventually found him there in the temple. Let us always turn to God, ask for his guidance and protection of every family, for the healing of our family, for the mending of our broken relationships. Let us pray for all broken families whose members from the husband and wife to their children are all aching deep inside for the pains of separation.
  2. The gift of women and of motherhood. When God created man, he found “it is not good for man to be alone” that is why he created the woman as man’s “suitable partner” (Gen.2:18). What a beautiful term for woman, part-ner, a part of man who is never complete by himself alone. How sad that until now, it is right inside the home where every woman first experience physical, verbal and emotional pains. Women are the best signs of fidelity and faith: Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” because she believed the words spoken to her by the angel from God will be fulfilled. Let us pray for the women in our lives especially own own mother and sisters, lola and aunties, cousins and nieces. Remember, the way we relate with women reflect to a great extent the way we relate with God. Love and bless the women!
  3. The gift of men and fatherhood. When Jesus taught us how to pray, he taught us that God is like a “Father” whom we shall call “Our Father”. There is a crisis in fatherhood and manhood these days because many men have forgotten to be truly man enough like God our Father: a giver of life and protector of life as well. Most of all, when children lose this gift of life, it is the father who restores the life lost like the merciful father of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel chapter 15.
Aleteia, December 2019.

This Christmas break, spend time with your family, hug your mommy and your daddy tightly and feel their presence again.

Thank your family, your mom and dad.

Pray for your departed loved ones, visit the cemetery and say a prayer for them, talk to them. Most of all, listen to them and feel them again.

Advent is finding our mission anew

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Advent IV-A, 22 December 2019

Isaiah 7:10-14 ><}}}*> Romans 1:1-7 ><}}}*> Matthew 1:18-24

Dome of the Malolos Cathedral Basilica, Advent 2019. Photo by author.

We are now at the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the final week of preparations for Christmas happening in about three days. And we go back to the gospel of Matthew to reflect anew on the annunciation of Christ’s birth to Joseph.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Matthew 1:18-21,24

As we look toward the coming Christmas Day, the story of the annunciation to Joseph invites us to examine ourselves, to look inside and look back through the years what have we done to bring Jesus Christ into the world like him.

Though Advent celebrates God’s fidelity and constancy in fulfilling his plan of salvation for us through Jesus Christ, this coming involves a human setting among us in the present time to realize its fulfillment.

Dream of St. Joseph (oil on canvas) by Spanish painter Francisco Goya via Google.

St. Joseph’s mission, our mission too

When the angel appeared to Joseph in his dream, it was not so much to explain to him about Mary’s virginal conception but to reveal to him his mission. Very clearly, Mary’s conception of Jesus is absolutely extraordinary, a mystery directly from God himself.

And that is how it is with life: there are certain things we simply have to let ourselves be wrapped by mystery than to unravel or explain it.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary whom he loves so much, Joseph believed in God, agreeing to what was asked of him that upon waking up, he obediently did everything the angel had instructed him.

Joseph’s acceptance of Mary and of his role in giving name to Jesus brings to an end the genealogy of “Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham” because in the Jewish society, it is the father who bears much weight in recognizing one’s child.

Here we find the crucial and critical importance of Joseph’s mission in giving name to Jesus, in taking Mary as wife: it is through his “fatherhood” that Christ comes into the world as a person, and most of all, as fulfillment of God’s promise made to Abraham and David.

Last Tuesday we have reflected how through Jesus Christ’s coming we now trace our genealogy and roots with God in faith. As children of our loving Father, we too are now entrusted with the same mission like Joseph to bring Jesus Christ into the world in our own time and history.

Altar of the Chapel of St. Joseph beside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Below the chapel are the ancient ruins of the home and shop of St. Joseph where he took care of Mary and Jesus. Photo by author May 2017.

Called to obedient faith

Salvation history continues and it is our duty to find our proper place in God’s plan like Joseph. The story of Christmas continues to our time that is why we have this Advent Season of preparation.

God has not diminished that great honor and privilege given to Joseph then and to us now of having an irreplaceable role in bringing Jesus into the world but this time, not through dream or voice of an angel. God continues to call us like Joseph to bring his plan of salvation in Jesus into fulfillment through our obedient faith through the Sacred Scriptures, the Church in her teachings and most of all, through the many situations and people we encounter in life.

We have to believe and accept this reality that “God needs us”, that the “baby Jesus” wants us to care for him, to give him a name so that “his glory would be eventually revealed for mankind to see the saving power of God” (communion antiphon of Christmas Eve).

St. Paul beautifully tells us in the second reading a very basic profession of faith affirming Jesus Christ as the Son of God descended from David through Joseph according to the flesh (Rom.1:1-4).

Through Jesus, we are called to “bring about obedience of faith” to spread this “good news to all Gentiles” or peoples of the world that they may honor and worship the Lord.

And the good news is this: despite or many flaws and weaknesses, all he needs is our complete faith and surrender to him like St. Joseph. It is Jesus Christ who shall provide us with the strength to fulfill this mission just like what he did to St. Joseph.

From Aleteia, 18 December 2019.

Hail to the fathers and men too

Last December 17 as the whole Church was proclaiming the gospel from Matthew on the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Pope Francis celebrated his 83rd birthday when he was presented with a unique Nativity scene called “Let Mum Rest” with St. Joseph taking care of the infant Jesus while Mary slept.

It went viral, and again, another unique imagery of the beloved St. Joseph courtesy of Pope Francis, a devotee of the Lord’s foster father. When he came to visit the Philippines in 2015, he narrated how he would pray to the sleeping St. Joseph and it became viral in the country.

And now this new image of St. Jospeh babysitting.

It is a very timely image at this time when there is a crisis in fatherhood, when many fathers have to make the difficult choice of leaving their families behind to work in distant places, often foreign countries just to earn decent living.

A crisis when fathers forget caring and loving their families because of the many demands of a high cost of living that along the way, they fall into many traps that sometimes make them forget their vows of marriage.

We need to pray hard for fathers and men. They too are blessed by God like St. Joseph.

We need to pray hard for fathers and men to help them remain upright like St. Joseph.

When Jesus began his ministry, he taught us the “Our Father” to show us that God is like a father because life comes from him. It is from the father that we receive the seeds of life with that genetic code called “DNA”. This is the reason why it is the father who gives name to the child at baptism like St. Joseph to Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus called God “our Father” because he is the one who protects and keeps life from dangers. He must have experienced this from St. Joseph who brought them to Egypt when Herod ordered the massacre of Holy Innocents after the visit by the Magi in Bethlehem. Fathers are often strict with children because he wants to ensure their safety.

Most of all, Jesus called God “our Father” because he is the one who brings back life to those who have lost it like the merciful father to his prodigal son (Lk.15).

How many times did our father saved us from scolding and punishment by our mother, from the simple misdemeanors to grave offenses like going wayward in life? It is often the father, ironically, despite his being strict and disciplinarian, who also has the softest heart for the prodigal child.

May St. Joseph help us men to be man enough to be faithful to God and loved ones to make everyone feel the love and mercy of the Father in heaven as revealed to us by Jesus Christ. Amen.

The wildness – and wideness – of God’s love and mercy

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XXIV-C, 15 September 2019

Exodus 32:7-11, 13-14 ><)))*> 1Timothy 1:12-17 ><)))*> Luke 15:1-32

Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 23 August 2019.

Today we conclude the series of “table talks” by Jesus with three parables narrated while dining; but, unlike the other Sunday when he was with prominent people, this time we find the Lord among the notorious ones of his time.

Tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to listen to Jesus, but the Pharisees and scribes began to complain, saying, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Luke 15:1-2

It is the perfect setting where Jesus bared what we may call as “the wildness and wideness” of God’s love and mercy for everyone, especially the lost and rejected. This explains why Luke 15:1-32 is the “heart” of the third gospel also known as the Gospel of Divine Mercy. So, please bear with me reflecting today’s long but lovely gospel.

The first two parables are about things – a sheep and a coin – that were lost and later found. There is nothing extraordinary about losing things that we also experience today. But, in narrating these parables, Jesus ended both with a saying to explain their meanings and significance to introduce the third parable of the lost son.

“I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.”

“In just the same way, I tell you, there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Luke 15: 7, 10
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte, Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.

For the past two Sundays, we have been reflecting about the importance of our personhood, of how God comes first to our very persons, of the need for us to be true and humble because God meets us right in our weaknesses and sinfulness. Jesus warned us the other Sunday that “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted” (Lk.14:11). As they say, bloom wherever you are planted for God’s grace is more than enough for each one of us!

Such is God’s love us that Jesus demands total faith in him 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). In our lives as his disciples, there would be countless times when no explanations, no reasons are enough why we choose to love and forgive, to be kind and understanding except the very person of Jesus Christ. That is what we call as communion, oneness with the Lord, of always preferring Jesus above anyone and anything!

This is the very reason why the Pharisees and scribes were complaining against him: the tax collectors and sinners were turning to Jesus and not to the Laws they represent! And that continues to happen in our time when some people insist more on religion and vocation, roles and rituals, totally forgetting and even disregarding the very person of God who calls us to himself in Christ!

The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt (c.1661-1669). From Google.

Then he said, “A man had two sons, and the younger son said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me.’ So the father divided the property between them. After a few days, the younger son collected all his belongings and set off to a distant country where he squandered his inheritance on a life of dissipation.”

Luke 15:11-13

Feel the solemnity of Jesus in introducing this parable, shifting from lost sheep and lost coin to lost son, from things to persons because the elder son is also lost. It is the father who eventually restored the lost personhood of the two sons when he lavished them with his love and mercy towards the end of the story. And that is why this parable is so lovely as it reminds us of how unconsciously we are “dumping” our own personhood despite our bloated egos. Slowly we are becoming robots or worst, even zombies without feelings and personal relations with others and with one’s self.

Just like the two sons in our parable who both define sonship in terms of servile obligations that is utilitarian and contractual in relationships, not as a family.

The Prodigal Son by John Macallan Swan, 1888. From Google.

Coming to his senses he thought, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food to eat, but here I am, dying from hunger. I shall get up and go to my father and I shall say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I no longer deserve to be called your son; treat me as you would treat one of your hired workers.”

He (elder son) said to his father in reply, “Look, all these years I served you and not once did I disobey your orders; yet you never gave me even a young goat to feast on with my friends. But when your son returns who swallowed up your property with prostitutes, for him you slaughtered the fattened calf.”

Luke 15:17-19, 29-30

The prodigal son remembered his father when he was starving, thinking more of the food he could have if he returns home as a servant, not as a son. See how in the midst of sin, he never thought of his father as his parent, of himself as a son. He was convinced that the path to reconciliation with his father was becoming a hired worker, forgetting the very fact he is the youngest son.

The same is true with the elder son who refused to join the celebration when his brother had returned home, feeling so bad that his long years of service to his father deserve him a reward. In a sense, he is worst than the prodigal son: no father, no brother – just himself alone!

Both sons have a slanted view of their father, a very truncated one that is self-isolating, very constricting like the Pharisees and scribes who have forgotten their being persons, of being interrelated with one another in God. Very much like us today that slowly as the ties that bind us as family and friends are slowly being severed by so many things, we also start to lose many of our values like “malasakit” or concern for one another.

The father redefined their – and ours, too – relationships as family that lead to joy and celebration.

He (father) said to him, “My son, you are here with me always; everything I have is yours. But now we must celebrate and rejoice, because your brother was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.”

Luke 15:31-32
Santorini. Photo by Dra. Mai Dela Pena, 2016.

Today, Jesus reminds us, and assures us too that no matter what happens with us, we will always be his brothers and sisters, beloved and forgiven children of the Father.

We call and relate with God as Father because as his children, he is our giver and keeper of life.

And should this life get lost, God as our Father, can also be so “prodigal” to “wastefully” love us and bring back this life to us for we are more valuable than anything else in this universe. That’s how wild and wide is his love and mercy. Amen.

Songs on Father’s Day

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music, 16 June 2019
Photo by edwin josé vega ramos on Pexels.com

It is Father’s Day and I cannot help being nostalgic because I lost my father 19 years ago at around this time of the year. It was June 17, 2000, the eve of Father’s day when my dad died of a heart attack before dawn. It was also the birthday of my mother.

And that is why I have always loved Luther Vandross Jr.’s “Dancing With My Father” he had co-written with Richard Marx released May 30, 2003.

It is the perfect song on this Father’s Day as it speaks of the tenderness and love of a father to his wife and children. No wonder, when Jesus taught us how to pray, he told us to call God “Dad” or “Daddy” which is the more literal translation of “Abba”.

What I like most in “Dancing With My Father” is at the end of the song:

Sometimes I’d listen outside her door
And I’d hear how mama would cry for him
I’d pray for her even more than me
I’d pray for her even more than meI know I’m praying for much to much
But could you send her
The only man she loved
I know you don’t do it usually
But Dear Lord
She’s dying to dance with my father againEvery night I fall asleep
And this is all I ever dream

My father loved my mother so much. Since childhood until I became a priest, he never ate without my mother with him at the table. He does her coffee and he is our chef. It was doubly hard losing him because he died on her birthday. Every time I would visit my dad’s grave, I asked him only one question: why did you die on mom’s birthday? After two years, I felt his answer that he died on my mom’s birthday so I would also love her as he had loved her. And that is what I have always tried to fulfill.

My father never asked me to become a priest but it was him who unconsciously planted the seeds of my vocation when I would always see him praying before our altar before leaving for work and upon arriving home in the evening. It was from him I have learned and realized what true love is and most of all, that indeed, God is love. He loved us so much and even though it has been 19 years since he died, I can still feel his love.

For all the faithful and loving dads especially those with God our Father in heaven, here’s one for you….

Our second song is another tribute to a late father, Bread’s 1970 hit “Make It with You”.

According to its composer David Gates, he got the inspiration for “Make It With You” not from his girlfriend but from his late father. Gates claimed that during an interview, a reporter asked him with whom would he want to share his success in music with? Right away, he answered it would be his late father, of how he would want to “make it with him” so his dad would see his successful career in music.

Perhaps, that’s what we all miss with our late dads who worked so hard to give us good future, a good career: we all want them to see the fruits of their labors in us, to share with them whatever good things we now have is because of them. It is from these experiences with our loving dads that we have had glimpses of our personal God who became human like us in Jesus Christ, joining us in our pains and sufferings to be one with him in his triumphs and glory.

As we celebrate today the Solemnity of the Blessed Trinity, may we get into the very selves of our dad in Spirit to realize how immense that love God has for everyone meant to be shared with others too. Cheers to all dads!

“Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell (1968)

sunset-lineman-260nw-193705
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Music
Week XI-B, 17 June 2018
Father’s Day

            I know.  Our LordMyChefSundayRecipe for today is titled “Sowing the Seeds of Love” from the 1989 hit by Tears for Fears.  But even before I have written that, I already had “Wichita Lineman” in my head as our Sunday Music on this Father’s Day because it best describes every father including me.  Even in this age of wireless communications, people are still essential to enable the proper function of technology that connects people with one another.  There would always be a “lineman” to ensure connectivity.

I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road
Searchin’ in the sun for another overload
I hear you singin’ in the wire, I can hear you through the whine
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line.
 
            Every dad, every priest is a lineman, trying to connect people with others and with God.  One of the earliest seeds of my vocation was actually planted by my father without him knowing it.  Even I did not realize it only later in life.  Every morning before leaving for office, I always woke up seeing him in front of our “Cristo Rey” praying.  Upon arrival from work before we would pray the Angelus in front of our grotto, dad would be in front of Cristo Rey again praying.  Until his retirement, he never failed to pray in front of our altar at home.  And now he is gone, I could still feel him praying for me and the family.  Maybe, that is the reason why most fathers die ahead of mothers:  they are the first to go beyond life, to link us with this world and the next world.  They never stop connecting us because a father is always a “lineman”.
I know I need a small vacation but it don’t look like rain
And if it snows that stretch down south won’t ever stand the strain
And I need you more than want you, and I want you for all time
And the Wichita Lineman is still on the line.
 
            Real fatherhood is 24/7, thinking more of the children than one’s self.  Above all, it is keeping the lifeline open, near or far, all the time because of love.  Hail to all the dads and Rev. Fathers here and above us in heaven.  Amen. Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022
Photo from Google.

 

Sowing the Seeds of Love, the Gift of Fatherhood

fathers-day-1465559565
The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Week XI-B, 17 June 2018
Ezekiel 17:22-24///2Corinthians 5:6-10///Mark 4:26-34

            Thank you very much for your “happy father’s day” greetings.  Thank you for considering me your “spiritual father” in the parish.  However, I hope you don’t mind me telling you that I do not really feel the celebration of “father’s day” every third Sunday of June because 18 years ago on the Saturday before this civil celebration, my dad passed away shortly before dawn due to a heart attack.  It was also the birthday of my mother, June 17, 2000.

            Last Friday, I again realized another sad note of this “happy father’s day” for me as a priest when Fr. Richmond V. Nilo was laid to rest in San Antonio, Nueva Ecija.  As you all know, Fr. Nilo is the third priest to be shot and killed in the country in six months.  Another priest was also ambushed last month but survived the attack.

            Am I bothered?  Not really for myself but for others, for the nation.  Suffering and death is our life as priests.  Too often you only see so little of who we are as priests but for those who truly take a deeper look into why we chose to become priests, why we do all these sacrifices, why we refuse to follow the current of the world today, then you start to wonder why we have chosen to be a priest of Jesus Christ.

            And there is no easy answer except the Lord.  Dominus est!

            It is the same for every dad out there:  why work so hard, sacrifice so much, love so much, suffer so much for the children and for the mother?  Why not must leave everything and everyone behind like others have done?  Every time a dad would claim that he bears everything because of love, that he strives hard to keep his family alive and secured, it is simply because of the Lord!  It is not being simplistic but simply because it is the truth.  That is why when Jesus taught us to pray, He told us to call God, Abba or Daddy.  That is who God is, Somebody always around us, ensuring our safety and security, enabling us to fulfill our dreams and aspirations.

            Our first reading today beautifully captures this enigma of fatherhood, of priesthood, of our life of love and suffering as a follower of Jesus Christ.  “Thus says the Lord God:  I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its top most branches tear off a tender shoot, plant it on high and lofty mountain… and become a majestic cedar.  And all the trees of the filed shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.  As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.” (Ez.17: 22, 23b,24)

            Recall, fathers, that day when you got married, pledging to love your wife “for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part”?  I also felt like you when I was ordained, saying yes to every question of our bishop particularly to proclaim the Gospel, to be obedient to him and his successor, and to remain celibate and not get married.  We were all young and perhaps blinded of the whole reality but we all said yes, we vowed before God to be faithful and true without realizing fully what it totally meant.  We were like St. Paul and continues to be like him, “walking by faith, not by sight.”(2Cor.5:7)  We were nobody.  We had nothing to boast in life during that time we were ordained or when you got married.  Or when you stepped into college or senior high school, or when you moved out of town or out of the country to work and pursue your dreams in life.  Look back to those days and we all realize we were nothing but fresh green shoots of the crest of the cedar tree plucked by the Lord and planted where we are now, fulfilled in our lives amid all the pains and sufferings.  God has always been present in our lives though many times we never noticed Him or refused to recognize Him.  He makes everything possible and most especially so beautiful.  And that is why we forge on despite the many hardships and difficulties our chosen path in life entail.  Deep inside us we are convinced “God is greater than our hearts.”(1Jn.3:20)

            This Sunday, we continue our journey in Jesus Christ with Mark as our guide.  Last week, we have seen ourselves among the relatives and family of Jesus who also misunderstood Him, yet still believed Him as the Christ.  Today Jesus begins to teach us in parables, inviting us to be open in receiving Him like a seed sown in the land wherein we would “sleep and rise night and day and the seed would sprout and grow, with us not knowing how.”(Mk.4:27)   This is the time of being patient in listening more to Jesus especially in prayer as we discern His mystery for only He knows the secrets of the kingdom of God.  Indeed, Jesus is asking us like St. Paul to “walk by faith, not in sight” because the most important things in life are not always visible with the eyes, always hidden in the heart of every person whom we must always love and respect as a brother or a sister.

            In 1989, the British pop duo Tears for Fears released their third hit single called “Sowing the Seeds of Love.”  Like their previous hit “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”, it had political undertones that remain so relevant up to this day.  Its opening line right away leads us to the urgency of their call to sow seeds of love, “High time, we made a stand, And shook up the views of the common man.”  Today’s gospel is a call for us to sow seeds of love, to make a stand for Christ, to shake up our views on real love for God, real love for others, and real love for country.  There are times we priests like married fathers fail to live up to our vows, even causing others to sin.  But, there is no amount of any wrong doing or sin, or whatever differences we may have with others can give anyone the power to destroy that seed sown in each of us because it is only God who makes that sprout into life, germinate and grow until it bears fruit for harvesting.  Cheer up your father, thank your dad, and start sowing seeds of love in everyone!  A blessed week to everyone! Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, Parokya ni San Juan Apostol at Ebanghelista, Gov. F. Halili Ave., Bagbaguin, Sta. Maria, Bulacan 3022