Finding God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Memorial of St. Dominic de Guzman, Priest, 08 August 2022
Ezekiel 1:2-5, 24-28   ><))))*> + <*((((><   Matthew 17:22-27
Photo by Ms. Jo Villafuerte in Atok, Benguet, 01 September 2019.
Once in a while, 
I imagine dear God
our Father what would
it be like to have a vision
of you, to find you and
your dwelling place?
Would I have the
courage and composure
of your prophet Ezekiel?

As I looked, a storm wind came from the North, a huge cloud with flashing fire enveloped its brightness, from the midst of which (the midst of fire) something gleamed like spectrum. Within it there were figures resembling four living creatures that looked like this: Their form was human… Like the bow that appears in the clouds on a rainy day, was the splendor that surrounded him. Such was the vision of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

Ezekiel 1:4-5, 28
You are always with us,
dear God, revealing your 
truth, goodness, and beauty;
you cannot be kept in any 
particular place for you are
all-powerful and in fact, 
the sole legitimate power
for everything belongs to
you as implied by Jesus to Simon
in today's gospel (Mt.17:22-27).
There is no need for me to have
the apocalyptic vision of Ezekiel
to find and see your dazzling 
majesty; just give me the humility
like of St. Dominic to passionately
seek you in prayers and studies,
following his footsteps in simplicity
of life and self-denial so that upon
finding your light and your truth, 
I may share you in Jesus Christ 
with everyone.
Amen.
St. Dominic from a detail of a fresco painted by Fra Angelico in 1441 in Convento di San Marcos in Florence, Italy; photo from commons.wikimedia.org.

Meeting God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday in the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time, 10 June 2022
1 Kings 19:9, 11-16   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 5:27-32
Photo by author, Los Baños, Laguna, 14 May 2022.
I do not want to say
that we find you, God because
the truth is it is you who find us
always; that is why, I prefer saying
meeting you.

So often, you find us but we do 
not meet you at all because we
look for you, always expecting you
in great things and spectacular sights
and happenings, in shows where we are
the focus not you, where we are heard
and you are disregarded.

Teach us to be patient and silent
like Elijah, awaiting for your passing
in the most simple and ordinary things
like the tiny whispering sound.

O dearest Lord, forgive us in our
many inanities of trying to meet you in 
great things while we indulge in little
things we consider as harmless and 
nothing at all like a simple look at women
filled with lust that reveal great tendencies of 
corruption within us.

May we learn to take care of the little
things in our lives that truly matter most
when aggregated into a whole.  Amen.

Prayer when “groping” for God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Sixth Week of Easter, 25 May 2022
Acts 17:15, 22-18:1     ><]]]]'> + <'[[[[><     John 16:12-15
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.
God our Father,
your words today are so
loving, so caring especially
for us who feel lost or at a loss, 
simply could not find our bearing
and directions in life at the moment
for so many reasons like situations
and peoples so unfavorable to us.
St. Paul in the first reading perfectly
said it, we are groping for you in the
dark, dear God.  Please help us
find our way back to you in Christ!

Then Paul stood up at the Areopagus and said: “The God who made the world and all that is in it, the Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in sanctuaries made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands because he needs anything. Rather it is he who gives to everyone life and breath and everything. He made from one the whole human race to dwell on the entire surface of the earth, and fixed the ordered seasons and the boundaries of their regions, so that people might seek God, even perhaps grope for him and find him, though indeed he is not far from any one of us.”

Acts 17:15, 24-27
I know, dear God that you
are always at my side;
and I know very well that 
always, we are the ones
who turn away from you,
we are the ones who get lost
and not you.
Thank you in sending us 
your Son Jesus Christ who always
finds us when we are lost;
so many times in life we feel
it is us who find you, that we are 
the ones searching for you 
and eventually discovers you.
And we are grossly wrong.
It is you, O God in Jesus, 
who finds us always.

Yes, it is true our heart is restless
until it rests on you but it is only you
who can move our hearts to desire you,
to search you, to look for you.
And we always find you because
you found us first!
Today I pray, dear Jesus,
that when life has so many lessons
to teach me and I could not bear it,
please send me quick the Holy Spirit
to enlighten my mind and my heart
to speak to me the things that are coming
while I forge on with life's many trials
until your glory is revealed.  Amen.
Photo by Mr. Chester Ocampo, springtime in Japan, 2017.

Jesus in our blessedness, and sinfulness

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Third Sunday in Easter-C, 01 May 2022
Acts 5:27-32, 40-41 ><]]]]'> Revelation 5:11-14 ><]]]]'> John 21:1-19
Photo by author, sunrise at the Lake of Tiberias, Israel, 2017.

This is the last Sunday in this Easter Season when we shall hear a story of the Risen Lord appearing to his disciples; starting next Sunday, our gospels will be from his Last Supper discourse that were his final instructions before his Passion, Death, and Resurrection.

This is the third appearance by Jesus to his disciples that happened at the shore of Lake Tiberias (aka, Galilee) one early morning after Simon Peter and six other disciples went fishing the night before and caught nothing. The story is quite long but very remarkable with how Jesus was recognized in the blessedness of John the beloved and in the sinfulness of Peter.

Such is the beauty and power of Easter, of Jesus breaking all barriers to come to us so we may experience his love and mercy and forgiveness. As we have reflected last week, it is not the number nor length of our Risen Lord’s appearances that matter but its inexpressible intensity demanding our intense response to him which we find today in John and Simon Peter.

Photo by author, November 2018.

“It is the Lord!”

The disciples were still at a loss three weeks after the Lord had risen. Despite his twice appearances to them, they could not yet grasp Easter’s meaning; it would still be a long way to go before they understand everything when the Holy Spirit comes on Pentecost as Jesus had promised them.

Trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, the seven disciples led by Simon Peter went fishing one night but caught nothing until Jesus appeared to them unrecognized.

When it was already dawn, Jesus was standing on the shore; but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, have you caught anything to eat?” They answered him, “No.” So he said to them, “Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.” So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish. So the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment, for he was lightly clad, and jumped into the sea.

John 21:4-7

What a beautiful story reminding us of the need to be always in the state of grace, of being in love first with Jesus to see and recognize him in the bountiful blessings he pours upon us daily!

See how it was the disciple whom Jesus loved who first recognized the Lord upon seeing the plentiful catch of fish with a wonderful interplay of catching many fish and recognizing Jesus.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.

For people truly in love with Jesus, everyday is a miracle, a day of his coming, of his loving presence among us.

Being in love with Jesus is having a prayer life in him that makes us attuned with him, becoming automatic with us to find Christ present in the various events happening in our lives, whether they are good or bad as both count as blessings to anyone who truly believes in him.

John must have been so in love with Jesus, remembering so well the first time he met the Lord with his brother James and their partners Peter and brother Andrew after a similar incident when they have caught nothing the previous night and Jesus invited them to “cast their net into the deep.” It must have been a “love at first sight” for him with the Lord that they eventually left everything including their father to follow Jesus as “fishers of men” (Lk.5:1-11, Fifth Sunday Ordinary Time, 06 February 2022).

When we love, our senses and our memories are heightened of our beloved’s words and actions that we can see and feel them around us even after they are gone. When we love, we find newness in life every day with Jesus standing at the shore every dawn waiting for us to wake up and lead us to a bountiful catch of fish daily. Of course, the fish is found only in the sea or lake but for us to catch them, we need to find Jesus first.

That is why it is necessary that we begin and end each day in Jesus praying. When we love someone, we always talk and listen, always communicating in various ways with our beloved.

Problem is when we do not pray, we get preoccupied with what we do not have – of not catching anything – of looking more into the dark or murky waters of life not seeing the light in the horizon, of Jesus at the shore.

Photo by author (2017), the shore of Lake Tiberias where Jesus asked Simon Peter thrice “Do you love me?”

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

After bringing in their haul of “one hundred fifty-three large fish” to the shore for breakfast with Jesus, our story reaches its climax with Jesus asking Peter thrice, using his original name Simon with the question, “Do you love me?”.

Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep… And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

John 21:17, 19

Peter understood fully well (gets niya, as the young would say) why Jesus asked him thrice with “do you love me?” to signify the three occasions he denied knowing him while being arraigned by the Sanhedrin on the night of Holy Thursday.

This time, there was no denying on Peter’s part that he had truly sinned that night in denying Jesus three times! And he was distressed because he was deeply sorry, telling Jesus, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” See the humility and sincerity of Peter in responding to the Lord’s question as he admitted his guilt of denying Jesus; but at the same time, his love and faith in the Lord despite his sinfulness and weaknesses. In telling Jesus “Lord you know everything; you know that I love you”, Peter was declaring his deep conviction that Jesus knows very well all our sins but at the same time knows too as well how much we love him in all of our imperfections.

Sin is not really that bad at all, so to speak, in the sense that even in our sinfulness, Jesus comes to meet us, assuring us of his love, of his mercy and forgiveness.

Photo by author, September 2021.

Just like his first words when nailed on the Cross, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk.23:34), Jesus comes to us quickly in our moments of sin, inviting us to come back to him. Every time we feel that guilt after committing a sin, when we feel that shame within, that is the moment too when Jesus calls us personally like Simon, not only asking us if we love him but assuring us most of all that he loves us in spite and despite our sins.

Here we find a different interplay: the more Jesus directed Simon unto himself – do you love me?– the more Simon saw his sinfulness but at the same time experienced Christ’s forgiveness and love for him because like John the beloved, he had always loved Jesus from the start despite his many flaws and weaknesses that would later be smoothened by the Lord.

Remain in love with Jesus. This is the grace of this third Sunday in Easter. We cannot follow nor meet Jesus whether in our blessedness or sinfulness unless we love him first of all. Jesus perfectly knows human love is imperfect; only he can love us perfectly. We do not have to pretend to be perfect before him; just be our true selves, sinful yet sorrowful, to surely meet him who never leaves our side.


Dearest Lord Jesus,
open my heart to love you more
so that my eyes may always see you
in life's many blessings and trials 
that come my way daily;
let me love you more so that
I obey God rather than men and women
who keep on demanding so many things
from me, enslaving me with their many
offers that pretend to make me perfect;
when things become difficult,
open my eyes like your Apostles
who found themselves worthy
to suffer dishonor for your sake (Acts 5:29, 31)
who alone is "worthy to receive power 
and riches, wisdom and strength,
honor and glory and blessing" (Rev.5:12).
Amen.

Photo by author, Puerto del Sol, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 19 April 2022.

Tasting and seeing God

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Friday, Feast of St. Catherine of Siena, Virgin and Doctor, 29 April 2022
Acts 5:34-42   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   John 6:1-15
Photo by author, Bolinao, Pangasinan, 20 April 2022.
On this feast of the first
woman doctor of the Church,
St. Catherine of Siena,
let me borrow her beautiful words
as my prayer to you, 
O God our loving Father:

Eternal God, eternal Trinity, you have made the blood of Christ so precious through his sharing in your divine nature. You are a mystery as deep as the sea; the more I search, the more I find, and the more I find the more I search for you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
Very often you send us
men and women you use to change
the course of history with their 
practicality and spirituality like
Gamaliel the Pharisee - through him,
the Apostles were finally set free
to go with their mission after
convincing the Sanhedrin that 
"if this endeavor or this activity 
is of human origin, it will destroy
itself.  But if it comes from God,
you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting
against God" (Acts 5:38-39).
You are indeed a mystery as deep 
as the sea using even enemies to
work in our favor so that the more 
I search you, the more I find you, 
and the more I find you, the more 
I search you as you slowly reveal
yourself in every unfolding of your works;
if others would only allow your grace 
for them to desire you, dear God, 
then they would realize this wondrous
gift and joy of living in you in Christ.

I have tasted and seen the depth of your mystery and the beauty of your creation with the light of my understanding. I have clothed myself with your likeness and have seen what I shall be. Eternal Father, you have given me a share in your power and the wisdom that Christ claims as his own, and your Holy Spirit has given me the desire to love you.

From the Office of Readings, “On Divine Providence” by St. Catherine of Siena
In your Son Jesus Christ's most
precious gift of his presence in the
Holy Eucharist, like the people at the
wilderness with him, we have felt 
how you work in our midst, most of 
all how we must cooperate with Jesus
to accomplish your work.
Despite her being illiterate and lack of
so much worldly credentials, 
St. Catherine eventually succeeded in 
bringing back the Papacy to Rome
even long after her death while her
writings and reflections have 
become a treasury of testament
to how you work among us despite
our many limitations.  May we have
the courage to allow you to do your
work in us, in Christ.  Amen.

Lent is for seeking God

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Third Week of Lent, 21 March 2022
2 Kings 5:1-15  <*{{{>< + ><}}}*>  Luke 4:24-30
Photo by author, St. Catherine’s Monastery at the foot of Mt. Sinai, Egypt, May 2019.
Thank you dear Father
in bringing us to this third week
of Lent, of experiencing your loving
presence, your mystery, your
person; but, still, O God, I continue
to seek you.
Or, do I really seek you?
So many times I seek you
God like a lost object, a thing
I need at the moment like Naaman
seeking for a cure to my sickness that
in the process, I try to pull strings
around, asking help from everyone -
the more knowledgeable, the more
famous and credible, the better.
Why can't I just take the word of a believer
like that captured slave girl 
in our first today?
So many times I seek you
God like an idea, merely with 
an operation of my intellect
that I reason out a lot, even arguing
with all my preconceived ideas of 
who you are, of what you like, even of
what must be done like Naaman 
who felt insulted when your prophet Elisha 
merely sent him a message to wash seven times
in Jordan river; why can't I just be like 
his servants who knew better of 
simply obeying orders, of keeping 
things simple than our preference 
for complicated ones? 
Worst, O God, are the many times like
the people of Nazareth when I seek you
to dominate you, to insist myself on
you than me surrendering to you!
Remove my many blindspots,
Lord Jesus in truly seeking God
especially in this season of Lent;
teach me to seek him by surrendering
myself to his will like you,
simply believing in him who
dwells within me and in others
through my loving service
and kindness to everyone. 
Amen.

Lent is seeing Jesus in everyone

40 Shades of Lent by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the First Week of Lent, 07 March 2022
Leviticus 19:1-2, 11-18  <*(((>< + ><)))*>  Matthew 25:31-46
Photo by author, the Holy Land, 2019.
On this blessed Monday,
I join dear God our Father
the psalmist in proclaiming
“Your words, Lord, are Spirit and Life” 
for it summarizes the two long
readings for today:  your instruction
to Moses telling us to “be holy, for I, 
the Lord your God, am holy (Lev.19:2)” 
and Jesus reminding us that
“whatever you did/did not do 
for one of these least brothers of mine, 
you did/did not do for me (Mt.25:40,45).”  
Beginning this Lent as we slowly
begin to go back to some semblance 
of normalcy in our lives, help us 
recover our lost identity of being
your beloved children, of being 
the dwelling-place of your Holy Spirit
who animates us to do what is good,
avoid what is evil, always seeing Jesus
Christ in everyone, especially those
silently suffering among us like the poor
and the sick.
Help us, Lord Jesus, to learn again 
that it is our nature to share and 
give life in you who is our Life; 
how wonderful it would be that on
judgment day, we shall all be surprised, 
asking “when were you Lord hungry 
we gave you something to eat, 
when were you Lord…?” in doing good
to everyone who turns out to be your
very presence!
The blessed ones, the holy ones 
like the saints are never bothered 
to think of anything else upon seeing 
the poor and suffering except to love 
and practice charity like St. Francis 
of Assisi who taught his disciples 
to preach always Jesus Christ, 
speaking only when necessary.  
Make us holy, like you,
O God, who is our life
present in everyone 
we meet.  Amen.

Praying for “divine intensity”

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week V, Year II in Ordinary Time, 07 February 2022
1 Kings 8: 1-7, 9-13   ><}}}}*> + <*{{{{><   Mark 6:53-56
Photo by author, Garden of Gethsemane outside the Church of All Nations, the Holy Land, 2017.
God our loving Father,
give me the gift of having
an intense attitude and disposition
to experience you in prayer
and the celebration of the
Holy Eucharist.
Let me desire you always,
make me eager to meet you
like the people at Gennesaret
who "scurried about the surrounding
country and began to bring in 
the sick on mats to wherever 
they heard Jesus was" (Mk.6:55).
How I wish, dear Father, we could
have the joy and excitement of the 
people when King Solomon led 
the opening of your Temple in
Jerusalem with the ark of the
covenant being brought there as
your cloud filled the temple.
We do not have any ark of
your covenant, Lord, but we 
have you truly present, Body
and Blood in every Eucharistic
celebration in our churches
which we often take for granted;
most often, nobody cares to visit you, 
dear Jesus truly present at the 
Blessed Sacrament!
If I could just have even half
of the eagerness of the people
of Gennesaret in meeting Jesus
or the intensity of the joy and 
excitement of the people of 
Jerusalem in the opening of their
temple, maybe your divine presence
O God would be more realistic and
more effective among us in Christ.
Amen.

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.