The “ins and outs” to the Lord

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

Missing Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 13 July 2021
Exodus 2:1-15   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Matthew 11:20-24
Photo by author, St. Agnes Church at Bethsaida, Israel, 2017.
Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds 
had been done, since they had not
repented.  "Woe to you, Chorazin!
Woe to you Bethsaida!  For if 
the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented 
sackcloth and ashes."
(Matthew 11:20-21)
I could hear you, Lord Jesus
crying again the same words
to us in this generation
of not heeding your voice,
of refusing or failing to recognize
God's loving presence among us
in you through the Church.
If our non-Christian brothers and
sisters were given the same 
chance we have been given in
belonging to your Church, 
maybe they have been more 
generous, more kind, and 
more ardent in their faith.
Forgive us, dear Jesus,
for not listening to your words, 
for not meeting you,
for always missing your coming to us
in the Church, in the Sacraments,
and most especially, in the Scriptures.
Sometimes, Lord Jesus
we are like those two Hebrews fighting
pacified by Moses in the first reading
who missed the opportunity of meeting God,
of discovering God among our community
when the culprit dared ask Moses:
"Who has appointed you ruler
and judge over us?
Are you thinking of killing me
as you killed the Egyptian?"
Then Moses became afraid and thought, 
"The affair must certainly be known." 
(cf.Ex.2:11-14)
Teach us, dear Lord
to be like the sister of Moses
who ensured she would not miss
the important opportunity when the Pharaoh's
daughter found baby Moses in a basket among
the reeds while taking a bathe at the river
to find their own mother to nurse the child
you have destined to set free your people from Egypt.
Make us realize every moment a grace of encountering
you Lord, of making your wonderful plans happen.
Amen.

Finding God, not just solutions

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 12 July 2021
Exodus 1:8-14,22  >>> + <<<   Mathew 10:34-11:1
Photo by author, Egypt, 2019.
Your words today, O Lord Jesus,
are so difficult to understand
even puzzling and disturbing 
but that is how it is often in life:
the harder it gets,
the better we become
like the children of Israel
when persecuted in Egypt.
A new king, 
who knew nothing of Joseph,
came to power in Egypt.
Accordingly, taskmasters
were set over the children of Israel
to oppress them with forced labor.
Yet the more they were oppressed,
the more they multiplied and 
spread.
(Exodus 1:8,11, 12)
Sometimes, Lord,
you allow us to go through
hardships and trials in life
so we may realize
that YOU alone are the most
essential in life like when you sent
the children of Israel to Egypt
during the period of great famine.
You sent them there not only to find food
but to rediscover Joseph their brother
and ultimately find YOU, dear God,
still faithful, still loving.
Alas, as time went on with them in Egypt
like with our own experiences,
we stop entering into a relationship with you
dear God, when our needs are fulfilled,
when we have found solutions to our problems,
not realizing that more important
than temporary solutions
to our temporary problems is
the wonderful intimacy with you
here, today, through eternity
where we have God more than
any amount of peace and prosperity. 
Jesus said to his Apostles:
"Do not think that I have come
to bring peace upon the earth.
I have come to bring not peace but the sword.
Whoever finds his life will lose it,
and whoever loses his life for my sake
will find it."
(Matthew 10:34, 39)
Lord Jesus Christ,
forgive us in being so focused
in solving the many problems of the world
than in finding God and his love; remind us
of our first task of casting away evil
and sins that plague us and the world
so that everything may be restored in you again.
Amen.

Praying for directions where to go

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday, Week XIV, Year I in Ordinary Time, 07 July 2021
Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7, 17-24   ><)))*>+><)))*>  Matthew 10:1-7 
Photo by Alex Powell on Pexels.com
It is only now have I realized,
Lord, how far we have been travelling
in this life 
and how often have we 
truly asked you for directions;
so often in life
off we go where our desires
and plans lead us
deciding on our own
charting our own maps,
asking directions from everybody,
even non-persons like Google and Waze
and still get lost
for we never asked you directions
nor followed your direction. 
When hunger came to be felt
throughout the land of Egypt
and the people cried to Pharaoh for bread,
Pharaoh directed all the Egyptians to
go to Joseph and do whatever he told them.
(Genesis 41:55)
Jesus sent out these Twelve 
after instructing them thus, 
"Do not go into pagan territory or 
enter a Samaritan town.
Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
(Matthew 10:5-6)
Go where, O God?
Go to persons, go to people.
Go to those with integrity and faith in you
like Joseph your servant sold to Egypt
by his own brothers.
Go to those lost and hurting,
to those who were one with us
but left us because we have hurt them
or taken them for granted
or have abandoned them.
Let us go, dear God,
where you desire us to bring you
to share you.
And find YOU.
 Amen.

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.

Catching Jesus in Lent

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Fourth Week in Lent, 16 March 2021
Ezekiel 47:1-9, 12  <*{{{><  +  ><}}}*>   John 5:1-16
"The man who was healed
 did not know who it was, 
for Jesus had slipped away, 
since there was a crowd there" 
(Jn.5:13).

So many times, Lord, we do not know you like that man whom you have healed at Bethesda because like in that incident, most of the time, you slip away from the scene.

And in all those times you have healed us and slipped from us, dear Jesus, we never bothered to check on you, to get to know you nor even catch a glimpse of you. Like that man you have healed, we never tried asking about you despite your presence among us because we are so focused with our sickness and handicaps that sometimes we almost worship them, making us more blind that we could not recognize your coming and staying among us.

Like that man you have healed, we have become lame and so fixated with our plight that made us find comfort in our miseries, making these our excuses to just stay behind, creating comfort zones as self- defense mechanisms for being lame to go and find you.

Forgive us, dear Jesus. Make us dare to find you and follow you even in the midst of our sickness and other limitations in life.

May we imitate the prophet Ezekiel in his vision at the first reading, daring to follow you even in waist-deep waters to see your wondrous works on those who seek you and cultivate that beautiful relationship with you.

This Lent, may we catch up with you, find you and know you, to keep you and always be with you. Amen.

How the Cross makes all beautiful

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul
Monday, Week II, Year I in Ordinary Time, 18 January 2021
Hebrews 5:1-9     >><)))*> + >><)))*> + >><)))*>     Mark 2:18-22
Photo by author, Carmelite Monastery in Guiguinto, Bulacan, November 2019.

So many things are running through my mind after a very long, and heavy Sunday, Lord Jesus. First I went to celebrate the Mass at the 40th day of the passing of a young mother – so young that she had gone ahead of her mother and father at the age of 56. And when I got back in my parish, I heard the news of a much younger mother of two, the wife of my former student in her early 30’s finally going to your rest after a long battle with cancer too. What pains me, Lord, is how I have been praying for her and suddenly, she’s gone. Now, I have to pray for her husband recently diagnosed with a brain tumor and yes, I am afraid of what could inevitably happen next.

Please, Lord, give him a chance to live long and see their two children mature. Please….

Sometimes I really wonder, Lord, if ever a day can ever pass without anyone dying, without anyone crying, without anyone suffering, without anyone sad.

How I wish, sometimes.

But as a priest so exposed to these many sufferings and pains of others, I am so thankful to you, too, dear Jesus in allowing me to experience these all as your priest, as someone you have called to share in other’s pains and sufferings like you.

Amid the many deaths and many crying I witness and experience, I thank you Lord in teaching me how to find God in pain; that, instead of asking God to take them away, may I imitate you, Jesus to embrace every trial and little deaths that come my way.

Continue to enlighten me, dear Jesus, to appreciate this paradox in life that it is incomplete without pain and sufferings; that it is in their midst do we find life’s deeper meaning as we grow deeper in love and compassion, strength and maturity as well just like you!

Photo by author, Dominican Hills, Baguio City, January 2019.

Brothers and sisters: Every high priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. No one takes this honor upon himself but only when called by God, just as Aaron was. In the same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high priest, but rather the one who said to him: You are my son; this day I have begotten you; just as he says in another place: You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.

Hebrews 5:1, 4-9

Teach me dear Jesus to see everything in the light and perspectives of your Cross, that I may shift in my approaches in dealing and looking at things to see more of your beauty than waste my energies whining and complaining. Amen.

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.

God in the signs of the times

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Week XXXIV, Year II in Ordinary Time, 27 November 2020
Revelations 20:1-4, 11-21:2     >>>  +  <<<     Luke 21:29-33
Photo by author, October 2020.

O God our loving Father, today I echo the song of the psalmist, yearning to be with you, hoping to dwell with you: “My soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest in which she puts her young — Your altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God!” (Ps.84:3, 4).

As we come closer to the end of the current liturgical calendar, looking forward to Advent and Christmas, make us more sensitive in finding you Lord in the signs you always give us by cleansing our hearts so that there is always a sacred space for you there within us.

May we always abide in you, O Lord, living in your precepts, finding you among us in the many signs you send us so that when your promised “new heaven and new earth” is realized in Jesus Christ, may we find favor in his judgement as we strived to live his gospel.

You have created us, fashioned us in your hands, breathing in us your life-giving spirit, Father; we are yours and meant to dwell in you in all eternity. Amen.

When less is truly more

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Week XXXI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 05 November 2020
Philippians 3:3-8   >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>  +  >><)))*>   Luke 15:1-10
From Google.

So many times I wonder, O God, why do you have to let us go on first with our lives, see and experience and have everything in the world before we realize that less is always more, that in losing that we truly gain?

Thank you for being so kind and generous with us! You are truly a Father who allows us to discover life by ourselves without forgetting to teach and remind us all the important things like faith, hope, and love.

There are times our values are misplaced but you take time before intervening like with the experiences of St. Paul and the other saints. You “let us” get lost only to seek and find us later so we learn your lessons first hand.

But whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Philippians 3:7-8

Yes, dearest God: less is always more when all we have is you in Jesus Christ who had come to fulfill our lives, our longings and our emptiness.

Teach us to appreciate the value and importance of little things, of the small ones we take for granted because in life, they are the ones who complete, who make everything a whole again.

Most of all, one is always too many to lose because each of us is so unique, so special and “irreplaceable”.

May we keep that in mind to be like Jesus the Good Shepherd always seeking and caring for the lost and the sick. Amen.

Photo by author, Sacred Heart Spirituality Center, Novaliches, 2018.