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.

We are never lost

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed (All Souls' Day), 02 November 2020
Wisdom 3:1-9  >><)))*>|+|>><)))*>  Romans 6:3-4, 8-9  >><)))*> |+| >><)))*>  John 6:37-40
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dearest God almighty Father: this All Souls’ Day is so special, so unique for us just like the rest of the other feasts and celebrations we have had so far this 2020 due to COVID-19 pandemic when we do not have much of our rites and rituals and traditions but more of their meaning.

Thank you, Lord, for making us realize and experience the essence and beauty of our celebrations like yesterday’s All Saints’ Day and today’s All Souls’ Day that are both a “festival of hope” – a virtue we have always taken for granted and misconstrued as something like optimism.

Thank you for the gift of hope, loving Father, that even if we feel everything is lost and gone for us, it is never the case with you. In fact, the more we lose ourselves and everything, the more we give up our beloved to death and eternal rest, the more we are all found in you!

In hope, we are assured that you will never reject us when we come to you:

Jesus said to the crowds: “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.”

John 6:37-39

How lovely to keep in mind, Lord, that hope is never empty because to hope is to rely on your promise and fidelity, on your love and compassion, on your mercy and forgiveness; to hope means keeping our ties and relationships with you who is Life itself.

As we remember our departed loved ones, we not only look back to our happy memories with them but most of all look forward into the future in eternal life Jesus promised us all.

May we stop saying we have “lost” a loved one when a beloved dies because we never “lose” anyone even to death as you assured us in the first reading:

The souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them. They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead; and their passing away was thought an affliction and their going forth from us, utter destruction. But they are in peace.

Wisdom 3:1-3

Teach us to hope always in you by living in Jesus (Rom. 6:8), never to steer away from his ways for that is when we truly get “lost” in life.

Also today, we thank and praise you, Lord Jesus, for not “rejecting” our prayers to spare us from the wrath of yesterday’s super typhoon “Rolly” as it weakened in category while passing through our region last night.

However, we continue to pray for our brothers and sisters in the Bicol region who have suffered so much from the impact of the super typhoon. Enlighten our minds and our hearts on how we can help them rise and start again to recover their material “losses” while at the same time, heal their memories in “losing” their loved ones.

May they find comfort and strength in you that they have not “lost” loved ones but have found you.

And for those injured, may your healing hands touch them, Jesus, be witnesses of hope in you. Amen.

Photo by author, sunrise at Camp John Hay, Baguio City, 2018.

Welcoming God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXII, Year II in Ordinary Time, 31 August 2020
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 >><)))*> |+| <*(((><< |+| >><)))*> |+| <*(((><< Luke 4:16-30
Photo by author, CICM Retreat House, Taytay, Rizal, 2007.

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father! Please, keep us open to your coming in Jesus Christ. Surprise us always with your simplicity, silence, and hiddenness.

You know how we are always attracted with people’s credentials and titles, outward appearances, and great talents in speaking and explaining things that we get carried away, leaving you behind.

I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

1 Corinthians 2:3-5

Let us come to you and meet you in Jesus by forgetting our self, taking our cross and following him in his passion and death.

Sometimes we forget your simple invitation to come to you with our sinful selves minus our pretensions and masks because all you want is our total selves. You do not ask for our perfections but imperfections, nor for our virtues and talents but for our lacking and sins.

And through this all, Lord, you give us life and freedom, fulfillment in you in our hearing:

Photo by Fr. Gerry Pascual at Yvoire, France, 2018

Jesus unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, “Today this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Luke 4:17-21

Come, Lord Jesus, you are most welcomed in me. Amen.

God never fails in finding us

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Memorial of St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, 28 August 2020
1 Cortinthians 1:17-25 <*(((><< ||+|| >><)))*> Matthew 25:1-13
Philippe de Champaigne’s painting “Saint Augustine” (1645-1650) from wikimedia.org.

Whenever I look back in my life, Lord, the more I realize the truth that it is YOU who finds us when we are lost. Even before we searched for you, you have been asking us to come home to you. In fact, to look for you is a grace in itself because that is when you have finally found us!

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you… You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness… You touched me, and I burned for your peace.

From the Confessions of St. Augustine

Thank you dearest Jesus in giving us the great St. Augustine, another version of St. Paul who started so wrong in life but ended right on your side.

Please be patient with us, Lord, specially in those times we feel so wise, thinking we know everything, that we can direct our own lives without you.

Open our hearts and our minds that we may heed the words of St. Paul like St. Augustine:

For Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

We pray, O Jesus, for the gift of wisdom like the wise virgins of your parable that even in the darkness of our lives, our hearts may always be aflame with your love. Amen.

Photo by author inside our parish at sunset, 25 August 2020.

Meeting Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Week XIX, Cycle A in Ordinary Time, 09 August 2020
1 Kings 19:9, 11-13 >><}}}*> Romans 9:1-5 >><}}}*> Matthew 14:22-33
Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Batanes, 2018.

I have always loved the sea and lately my thoughts have always been about the beach as I miss it so much after COVID-19 had robbed us of our summer vacation.

In ancient time, the sea evoked fear because it was largely unknown that even in the bible, it is the symbol of evil and its powers over man. That is why our gospel today is very significant when Jesus walked on water to show God’s greater power over evil and sin.

And like our gospel last week, our story today tells us a lot more about Jesus walking on water in the midst of a storm to reveal himself and most of all, his desire to meet us his disciples.

Place and location as non-verbal communication of one’s presence

Every meeting and encounter presupposes locations or places, a locus; but, everything is “levelled up” or elevated in Jesus in whom things do not remain in the physical level.

Proxemics is the non-verbal communication that refers to places and location, its nearness and orientation. How we arrange our furnitures, designate the rooms and sections in our homes, offices, schools and every building we stay and gather communicate and reveal who we are.

For example, Catholic homes are easily identified in having a grotto at the garden, an altar of the Sacred Heart or any saint at the sala, and the Last Supper painting in the dining hall.

But for Jesus, a place or a location is more than the physical site because in him, proxemics takes on a deeper dimension and higher meaning when we meet him in situations and places. That is why after feeding the more than five thousand people last week, he ordered the Twelve to cross the Sea of Galilee (which is actually a lake) ahead of him while he dismissed the crowds.

After doing so, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When it was evening he was there alone. Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. during the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear. At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Matthew 14:23-27
Photo by author, Sea of Galilee at Capernaum where Jesus used to preach, May 2019.

Crossing to Jesus, crossing with Jesus

I love that scene very much, of Jesus getting his disciples into the boat to precede him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the crowds. Again, St. Matthew never bothered to tell us why Jesus sent the Twelve ahead of him as he stayed behind, dismissing the crowds and later praying alone at night atop the mountain.

Let us now reflect the proxemics or non-verbal communication of our gospel scene this Sunday.

We need to cross to the other side to meet Jesus.

To meet Jesus Christ, we always have to “cross to the other side” by leaving our “comfort zones”.

More than going to the other side of the lake physically, we have to move over to unchartered areas of life, be bold and daring to try new things, new situations in order to mature and find fulfillment by meeting Jesus Christ.

And sometimes, we really have to literally cross the sea or get to the other side of the country or the world to find our self and meet Christ.

Fifteen years ago I went on vacation to Toronto for some soul-searching as I went through a burn-out. While serving at St. Clement Parish, I met many Filipinos serving as lectors, choir members, catechists and volunteers.

Graph shared by sugarindustryfoundationinc.org.ph.

They would always confess to me with both a sense of pride and little shame that they never went to Mass regularly when in the Philippines and now in Canada, they were amazed at how God had brought them there to be involved in parish activities and be closer to Jesus than ever!

As I listened to their stories, I realized the many sacrifices and hardships they have to endure in that vast and cold country with no one to turn to except God. If given the chance, many of them admitted they would return to the Philippines for there is no place like home!

Though I have found so many things I have been searching for in my initial three months of stay there on top of other opportunities given me, I still felt empty. That raging storm within continued. As I prayed and reflected guided by an old, Polish priest who claimed to have been the student of St. John Paul II, I saw myself more, eventually leading me to God anew who refreshed my vocation that I finally decided to go back home after six months of my supposed to be one year leave.

Sometimes in life, we need to get away from our comfort zone, cross to the other side, especially when life becomes so artificial. Jesus invites us to go ahead and cross to the other side of the lake or sea to experience life at its “raw” so we can feel again our souls within and desire him anew until we finally meet him wherever we may be in the world.

It is when we are at the other side of the sea in the midst of a storm when Jesus comes, immediately answering our cries for help – At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage; it is I” – because when we are reduced to emptiness and nothingness, then our faith kickstarts again. Faith, like love, is always an encounter with God.

Try going to the other side, leave your comfort zone to meet Jesus and finally have meaning and direction in life!

Silence is the presence of God.

In the first reading we have heard that beautiful story of Elijah meeting God at the mouth of a cave — not in the strong and heavy wind nor earthquake nor fire like Moses before him.

After the fire, there was a tiny whispering sound. When he heard this, Elijah hid his face in his cloak and went and stood at the entrance of the cave.

1 Kings 19:12-13

Silence is the place of the presence of God because silence is his language too. Wherever there is silence, we can surely find and meet God there.

That is why Jesus wants us to cross to the other side, to be silent and listen to him.

Photo by author, crossing the Lake of Galilee, May 2019.

In his silence, God teaches us that except for sin, he never considers everything as being finished; everything is a “work-in-progress” even if he seems to be silent that some think he must be absent or even dead.

The world thrives in noise, loud talks, and screams with each voice trying to dominate another resulting in cacophony of sounds. Shakespeare’s Hamlet said it well when he told Polonius what he was reading were “Words, words, words” — nonsense!

Some people like those in power think that the more words they say, the more meaningful their thoughts and ideas become. Worst, they thought that using foul and filthy language make them so natural and credible, not realizing the more they look stupid with their crazy thoughts and ideas not even clowns and comedians would ever attempt to imitate.

But when our words come from deep silence, they come with power and meaning, touching everyone’s heart and inner core.

That is when silence becomes fullness, not emptiness or mere lack of noise and sound.

Like when our medical frontliners and medical experts spoke with one voice last week airing their thoughts about the pandemic — we were all moved and reawakened to realize how we have been going about with our lives almost forgetting them these past five months!

What a tragedy at how our officials in government and Congress reacted negatively, feeling hurt deep inside with the painful truth of how they have been irresponsible from the beginning. Sapul!

Pico Iyer wrote in a TIME magazine essay 30 years ago that “silence is the domain of trust”.

True. The most trustful people are the most silent; those who speak a lot trust no one and most likely, cannot be trusted too.

Jesus invites us to cross to the other side to be silent and learn to trust him. It is only then when we can meet him. In silence.

Photo by Mr. Raffy Tima of GMA-7 News, Manila Bay with Mt. Samat’s Cross at the background, April 2020.

Jesus meets us in darkness.

Jesus asks us to cross to the other side of the lake or sea like his disciples in order to meet us in darkness. This is a paradox because Jesus is the light of the world.

But, note the most notable moments in his life happened in darkness: he was born on the darkest night of the year, he died when darkness covered the whole city of Jerusalem, and he rose from the dead when it was still dark on the first day of the week.

Jesus had overcome darkness! So, what happened to Peter in this episode after being called by Jesus to walk on water too?

Jesus said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Matthew 14:29-30

Imagine how everything was going so well with Peter doing another crossing while crossing the lake! But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus calls us into the dark so that we only look for him and upon finding him, focus on him alone. Peter saw the strong wind, not the stronger and powerful Jesus walking on water, that fear overtook him.

That’s the whole point of St. Paul in our second reading today: he was telling the Romans how some people in Israel trusted more in their physical descent from Abraham than in God’s promise of salvation fulfilled in Jesus they have refused to see and recognize as the Christ (Rom.9:1-5).

When in the dark, be silent and still for Jesus is near! Keep your sights at him, not on anything else. Problem in darkness is not God but us who follow other lights or have become delusional.

Photo by Mr. Jim Marpa, 2019.

That is the tragedy we are into as a nation while crossing to the other side of the sea of pandemic in just one boat when our officials see only themselves as always being right. Worst, they all want to be on the stage with all the lights on them as they speak and sing in cacophony like psychopaths.

All the more we must hold on tight, trust and focus in Jesus who is “now here”, not “nowhere” for he will never allow us to perish.

Let us trust Jesus overcoming all these evil, leading us to the shore. Amen.

A blessed rainy Sunday to you and your loved ones!

Let nature remind us of God

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XVI, Year II in Ordinary Time, 20 July 2020
Micah 6:1-4, 6-8 <*(((><< )) + (( >><)))*> Matthew 12:38-42

Praise and glory to you, O God our loving Father for this beautiful Monday! We are midway through the month of July in this challenging year. Yes, 2020 is heavy for most of us with all the various problems we are going through but you have never left us, O Lord.

And that is why, Father, we also wonder what else have we not done that would set things right again?

Let us heed your words, O God.

Let us be reminded of your ways, of your very self by nature around us!

Hear what the Lord says: Arise, present your plea before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voices! Hear, O mountains, the plea of the Lord, pay attention, O foundations of the earth! For the Lord has a plea against his people, and he enters into trial with Israel. O my people, what have I done to you, or how have I wearied you? Answer me! You have been told, O man, what is good, and what the Lord requires of you: Only to do right and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:1-3, 8

Forgive us, merciful Father, for being “an evil and unfaithful generation” always looking for signs of your loving presence.

Teach us to trust you even if we cannot understand your plans.

May we learn from nature around us that thrives so well in your loving care – full of life, full of zest even without so much attention, reminding us of your saving power in Jesus Christ. Amen.

All photos by author except bougainvillea with our parish church by Gelo Nicolas Carpio in the collage above.