When “ordinary” is “extraordinary”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in Week 1 of Ordinary Time, Year II, 10 January 2022
1 Samuel 1:1-8   ><)))*> + <*(((><   Mark 1:14-20
Photo by author, 2019.
Glory and praise
and thanksgiving to you,
God our loving Father for 
bringing us to this Monday,
the beginning of our Ordinary
Time in the Church calendar.
Send us your Holy Spirit 
to enlighten our minds and our
hearts not to look down upon 
what we consider as "ordinary" -
ordinary people, ordinary days,
ordinary food, ordinary tasks,
ordinary as same usual fare,
ordinary as less than grand and
special things.
Help us rediscover the true meaning
of "ordinary" which connotes orderliness
from the Latin roots ordo, ordinis for
order and ordinarius for orderly.
Let us live up to our faith in you
during this ordinary days when 
many of life's challenges happen 
like your servant Hannah, the mother 
of your prophet Samuel:

Her rival, to upset her, turned it into a constant reproach to her that the Lord had left her barren. This went on year after year; each time they made their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the Lord, Peninnah would approach her, and Hannah would weep and refuse to eat. Her husband Elkanah used to ask her: “Hannah, why do you weep, and why do you refuse to eat? Why do you grieve? Am I not more to you than ten sons?”

1 Samuel 1:6-8
Keep our eyes and our hearts
open like the brothers Simon and 
Andrew, James and John for your
Son Jesus Christ who comes to us
in the most ordinary days, in the 
most ordinary circumstances like 
casting nets and mending nets.
Let us be on guard, dear God, during
ordinary days and time for these are 
extraordinary moments because you
have made everything and everyone
so special.  Amen.

Advent is for seeing God clearly

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr, 13 December 2021
Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17   ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><   Matthew 21:23-27
Photo by Fr. Pop Dela Cruz, June 2021, Binuangan, Obando, Bulacan.
Dearest God our Father:
with the days fast-approaching
to Christmas, we pray you open
our eyes to see you more clearly
so that we can love you dearly
and follow you more closely each day.
As celebrate the memorial of St. Lucy,
your Virgin Martyr who chose to see
the glory of heaven than sin, open our
eyes to see you more in others and in 
many occasions in our lives.
Clear our eyes and vision of pride
and evil like Balaam who first came
to curse the Israelites but in your 
divine power, he instead blessed 
your people upon seeing the coming of
Jesus Christ!

Then Balaam gave voice to his oracle: The utterance of Balaam, son of Beor, the utterance of the man whose eye is true, the utterance of one who hears what God says, and knows what the Most High knows, of one who sees what the Almighty sees, enraptured and with eyes unveiled. I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: a star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall arise from Israel.

Numbers 24:15-17
Forgive us, Lord, despite your coming
we remain and insist in being stubborn
like the chief priests in your time who 
refused to see the hand of God in your
mission nor in John's preaching; let us be
open and willing to find you coming, 
to hear your speaking through unexpected
channels and occasions.  Amen. 

Looking intently

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 30 August 2021
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18   ><]]]]*> ><)))'> ><]]]]*>   Luke 4:16-30
From Forbes.com
"Rolling up the scroll,
Jesus handed it back to the attendant
and sat down, and the eyes of all in the
synagogue looked intently at him."
(Luke 4:20)
So many times in life, Lord,
we are like your townsfolk in Nazareth
who looked intently at you after
proclaiming the scriptures,
after saying or doing something
so beautiful.
But, what do we "looked intently at" you, Jesus?

Is it really you whom we look at?
Is it the Father whom we try to look and find
in you, his mercy and love?
Or, it is still our very selves
 with all our personal interests,
 of what we can have from you,
that we look intently at you?
"Then we who are alive,
who are left, will be caught up
together with them in the clouds
to meet the Lord in the air.
Thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore, console one another 
with these words."
(1 Thessalonians 4:17-18)
How funny, O God our Father,
how the early Christians also looked intently
for the Second Coming of your Son Jesus
while us in this time no longer look forward
for that great day of "new heaven, new earth";
people hardly looked intently to you these days
and if ever they do so, most often
because with our personal interests.
Give us the grace, dear God,
to start looking intently again to you
and for you in Christ Jesus,
in his coming to "bring glad tidings to the poor,
to claim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to proclaim a year acceptable to you"
(Luke 4:18-19).
In this time of the pandemic
when so many are suffering
and getting sick
and dying,
let us look intently anew
to everyone with love and respect,
kindness and compassion
as if we are looking at you
in Christ Jesus.
Amen.

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.