Hearing, coming

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 19 January 2023
Hebrews 7:25-8:6   <'000>< + ><000'> + <'000>< + ><000'>   Mark 3:7-12
Photo by Dra. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2022.
Open our ears and our hearts,
God our loving Father, 
to always hear your voice,
to heed your calls in Jesus Christ
so that like the people in the gospel
we too may come to him.

Jesus withdrew toward the sea with his disciples. A large number of people followed from Galilee and from Judea. Hearing what he was doing, a large number of people came to him also from Jerusalem, from Idumea, from beyond the Jordan, and from the neighborhood of Tyre and Sidon.

Mark 3:7-8
In the fourth gospel, John
tells us how Jesus invited 
Andrew and companion to
"come and see" where he stayed;
in a beautiful manner, Mark
tells us today how people
"heard and came" to Jesus!
"Coming" to you, O Lord,
is always accompanied either
by seeing as a result of coming
or by hearing that leads to coming.
How ironic,
even ridiculous
in our time with all the earphones
and earplugs and pods stacked in
our ears listening, hearing the 
cacophony of sounds and noise
of the world and everyone peddling
lies after lies but we would not 
even bother to hear nor listen 
to the gospel and stories of Jesus Christ!
In fact, we are so busy listening
to others and the world without
ever hearing our true selves
at all!
Teach us to listen,
to hear and follow your
voice and calls, dear Jesus
for you alone is our perfect 
mediator, our perfect high priest
"who is always able to save those
who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make 
intercessions for them" (Heb. 7:25).
Refine our listening
pleasures and abilities
that touch our very core
not just our senses,
massaging our ego;
may we have the courage
to hear and listen to what is
true and just, no matter how
painful they may be
for it is only in that way
we can be healed of our
many diseases and maladies.
Amen.

Something old, something new

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday in the Second Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, 16 January 2023
Hebrews 5:1-10     ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>     Mark 2:18-22
Glory and praise to you,
O God our loving Father,
for this brand new day
to begin anew in life,
to bridge and process
our past so we may live fully
in every present moment 
as we project our future.
Beginning today,
teach us in Christ Jesus your Son
the need for us to understand fully
and put into practice his teaching
"new wine is poured into
fresh wineskins" (Mk.2;22).
Enable us to always welcome change,
to find you coming to us in new
and often unexpected situations or
things and persons;
may we learn to bridge,
in fact become a bridge like Jesus,
the old and new,
the past and the present,
God and your people:
"In the days when he was in the Flesh,
he offered prayers and supplications
with loud cries and tears to the 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 5:7-9).
Dear Jesus,
teach me to have new perspectives,
new outlook in life in you,
by focusing more on you,
by believing in you,
in seeking and following you,
most of all, 
in seeing everything in you
so that I may learn to accept 
things of old
like pains and sufferings,
need for trials and difficulties
so that I may grow in
strength and maturity,
love and compassion
like you.
Amen.

Prayer is emptiness

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of St. Bruno, Priest, 06 October 2022
Galatians 3:1-5   ><000'> + ><000'> + ><000'>   Luke 11:5-13
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 10 September 2022.
Remind us, 
O Lord Jesus Christ,
that "while the world changes,
the cross stands firm",
that you alone, 
Jesus Christ
is our salvation
and way to perfection
as the Carthusians
had held for almost 
a thousand years.
Like St. Bruno
their founder and father,
let us "seek God 
assiduously
to find God promptly
and to possess God
fully."

“And I tell you, ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks the door, the door will be opened.”

Luke 11:9-10
Stop our foolishness,
our being stupid like the
Galatians as St. Paul
called them in the first reading:
prayer is not an ATM
where we go to get cash
we need nor an apps
when we can just seek,
find and have whatever
we desire and need;
PRAYER IS EMPTINESS.
Teach us Jesus 
to lay ourselves bare,
to strip ourselves
naked before you;
teach us to ask for YOU,
to seek YOU,
and to enter YOU.
How foolish we
have become
that we have been
misleading people
from you because 
we teach wrongly
about prayer that
is centered on us
and our needs and
desires, making God
a Santa Claus
or even a genie.
Make us persevere
in emptying ourselves
of our pride
to be filled with your 
humility and love,
to be an indwelling
of the Holy Spirit
so that we become more
like you, Jesus,
fulfilled and at peace.
Amen.

The difficulty and beauty of intimacy

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Wednesday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time, 03 August 2022
Jeremiah 31:1-7   ><)))*> + + + <*(((><   Matthew 15:21-28
Photo by Dr. Mylene A. Santos, MD, 2021.
Many times I have felt you,
dear Jesus coming to me in unfamiliar
grounds and situations
like when you came to the pagan
district of Tyre and Sidon;
for what, Jesus?
To test us?
Why do you come to me
when I am weakest,
when I am sinful,
when I am in doubt,
when I am unfaithful?
Why did you go to a pagan region but
would not even pay attention to the
Canaanite woman begging for your help
to free her daughter from evil possession?

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her.

Matthew 15:21-23
O dear Jesus!
Teach me to be more engaging with you,
arguing, debating, "fighting" like
in close contact karate in order to be intimate;
intimacy is more than being close with you
but also involves personal contact and
engagement with you that best happens
in unfamiliar territories
like Tyre and Sidon where we have
no one else to turn to except you,
when we have to bare to you our vulnerabilities
and weaknesses, our skin until we are stripped
naked before you like that Canaanite woman
admitting her being referred to as "dogs"
and be clothed only with your very self,
with your love and company.
That is INTIMACY,
dear Jesus!  A most beautiful status
and gift but most difficult because it is
a journey into foreign territories
requiring our complete trust and
faith in God who loves us so much.

Thus says the Lord: The people that escaped the sword have found favor in the desert. As Israel comes forward to be given his rest, the Lord appears to him from afar: with age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you.

Jeremiah 31:2-3
O God, loving Father,
keep me faithful,
keep me close to you,
especially when the path
is difficult,
when the journey is
exhausting.
Amen.

Finding our directions in life

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
First Friday in Week XIII of Ordinary Time, 01 July 2022
Amos 8:4-6, 9-12   ><))))*> + ><))))*> + ><))))*>   Matthew 9:9-13
Photo by author, 14 May 2022 in Los BaƱos, Laguna.
Glory and praise to you,
God our loving Father for this
brand new month of July 2022:
new beginning, new batch of 31
days filled with your wonderful 
surprises, filled with life and joy!
Grant us, dear Father,
with sense of directions in you
through Jesus Christ your Son;
like Matthew, may we have the grace
to respond to his call to follow him;
help us realize like Matthew
that life is not about having 
wealth and every thing money can buy
but finding meaning and 
directions in life in you.
Forgive us, O Lord, 
when affluence and comforts
overtake us that we forget you
and the people around us
like the people of Israel at the time
of Amos who "trampled upon the needy
and destroyed the poor of the land"
(Amos 8:4); all the sad conditions
happening then still happen today when
nobody cares at all about Sunday worship
nor with honesty in trading and work.

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord God, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from north to the east in search of the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.

Amos 8:11-12
Continue to speak to us, Lord,
for without your words,
we are lost like many of those
among us today, "wandering from sea
to sea, roving from north to the east"
searching for your words,
searching for meaning and
directions in life.
Amen.

Life directions and freedom

The Quiet Storm by Fr. Nick F. Lalog II, 10 January 2022
Photo by author, Ubihan Island, Meycauayan, 31 December 2021.

It is said that “life is a journey” but I have found through the years that as a journey, life is more of a direction than a destination. It is always easy to plot our life destination but upon reaching them, what do we do next?

If life is a journey that is more on destination, all we will be doing in life is keep on thinking of new places to visit and new goals to achieve until we ran out of destinations and we have nowhere else to go!

That is why life is more of a direction.

It does not mean we stop making plans or setting goals to reach; we just learn to be more open with the directions life is leading us into.

So often it can happen that while pursuing a goal or reaching a destination, we find many things and meet persons along the way who make us change directions in life for something better we never knew existed before.

Sometimes we discover while at the middle of a journey the many directions we have been seeing or noticing earlier that suddenly later make sense, opening new routes for us to take to something more fulfilling or clearer and better.

As we become open for directions in life, the more we become free to be our true selves, free to pursue what is best than be fixated and even held hostage by a previous goal or destination we have set before which we find no longer viable.

It is like using those travel apps Waze and Google Maps that give us the pertinent information like traffic conditions that help us choose the best routes to reach a specific destination.

However, as we travel, we find the apps taking us to longer routes or may even be misleading us because the data available are obsolete or the internet signal is unreliable. And so, we disregard the apps and try to find our way to our destination through directions provided by actual people and signages we check on the streets. Recall how the apps would continue to “speak” and even insist us to turn left or right as it is bent on reaching the destination. Travel apps are concerned merely with the place to reach, totally “unaware” of the person traveling.

That’s the problem with journeying more on destination when we forget persons that we miss the fun and adventures along the way.

When we journey more on directions, we are more concerned with persons and people that we experience fun and adventures, learning new things about peoples we meet or travel with as well as places we pass through on the way to our destination.

Sometimes, we have to scrap everything as the new directions lead us to more interesting places to visit.

In that way, we grow and mature as persons because we have become more free to be ourselves, more free to follow our inner voices within our hearts that lead us to far and exciting new places. In the process, we also discover our true friends and companions in life!

Ultimately, when we are free to follow directions than simply reach destinations, the more we also discover God – the most wonderful journey in life because ultimately he is our only destination and end.

God as a direction demands us a deepening of our faith, hope and love in him whose “invisible hands” guide us to persons and places and situations that seem to be unrelated at first but as we journey, we discover their many linkages, like tiny pieces of a mosaic creating a wonderful picture bigger than us.

God as a direction leads us to more freedom to discover life itself. That is the beauty of every new year: those twelve months of the calendar have no specific destinations but give us directions to follow by being sensitive to where God is leading us. It is totally senseless and useless to consult fortune-tellers for their fearless forecasts of what is going to happen for that will only make you “unfree” to seek and follow new directions in life. Besides, only God knows what will happen and that is why we follow his directions.

Above all, remember that the discovery of God is not the end of a journey but the beginning of a new one in him, with him, and through him. The journey never stops in Christ Jesus to God our Father in heaven. So, have life and be free to follow new directions from God this new year!

Keep traveling in Christ this 2022. Who knows, we might meet once or twice along the way. Amen.

Seeing Jesus, walking with Jesus

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday Week XXX-B in Ordinary Time, 24 October 2021
Jeremiah 31:7-9 ><]]]]'> Hebrews 5:1-6 ><]]]]'> Mark 10:46-52
Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

We are about to end our liturgical calendar in five Sundays from now and Jesus is fast approaching Jerusalem, his final destination in fulfilling his mission to redeem us from our sins. Along this path, we are reminded of the many blindness within us that prevent us from meeting Jesus who is passing by.

Recall how last week we reflected on the “blindness” of the brothers James and John to their ambitions, wishing to Jesus that once he becomes king, they would be seated at his right and at his left, forgetting the Lord’s teaching that he is a “suffering Messiah”, far from their expectations of a triumphant victor or liberator.

Today, we heard the story of a blind man named Bartimaeus who kept shouting, pleading to Jesus’ attention who was passing by the city of Jericho on his way to Jerusalem.

The story reminds us of the need for us to be aware of our many blindness in life, of things that keep us from seeing Jesus, others and our very selves. Here is a man very realistic, aware of his blindness, focused on his need and goal to be able to see, most specially Jesus.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a sizable crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind man, the son of Timaeus, sat by the roadside begging. On hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me.” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he kept calling out all the more, “Son of David, have pity on me.” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”

Mark 10:46-49

So often, we get blinded by even the most obvious things in life like our present condition that needs to be improved or even saved. In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles is a story of that crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate of the temple whom Peter and John healed one afternoon after the Pentecost. According to Acts 3:1-9, when the beggar who was crippled from birth saw Peter and John approaching him, he thought they would give him alms; but much to his surprise and of everybody, Peter made him walk in the name of “Jesus Christ the Nazorean”!

Imagine how the crippled beggar so used to his condition, so comfortable to some extent that he was preoccupied to just begging for alms, forgetting or abandoning all hopes to be able to walk like most people.

There are times we really do not know what we need and want in life that we are easily distracted and defocused from having the essential things in life like seeing our true selves, those around us and even our need for God who has been loving us, showering us with his many blessings and grace we hardly notice because we are busy complaining for so much wants not important.

Here, Bartimaeus was so sure of what he wanted: to recover his sight.

And the most wonderful thing is how he completely had faith in Jesus as the only one who can restore his sight, calling him “Son of David” which is the title of the coming Messiah or Christ. He must have heard a lot about his healings and preaching, realizing Isaiah’s prophecy of how the Messiah would restore sight to the blind. Jesus himself had confirmed this at the inauguration of his ministry at Nazareth when he proclaimed that part of the Book of Isaiah in the synagogue (Lk.4:18).

That is how realistic and grounded was Bartimaeus to the realities of himself that he shouted to beg Jesus to have pity on him. His faith in Jesus was so firm that when people tried to silence him, the more he persisted and shouted aloud so Jesus would hear him!

How well do we know the many blindness we have in ourselves that we would exert such effort like Bartimaeus in asking Jesus for light, to restore our sight so we would see and know him clearly, love him dearly and follow him closely?

He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus. Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” Jesus told him, “Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.

Mark 10:50-52

Moreover, it is not enough to be healed of our blindness in faith; 
the truest sign of having our sights back, 
of being healed from blindness is to leave 
the roadside to follow Jesus "on the way".

“Jesus healing the Blind Man” painted by Brian Jekel (born 1951) in 2008, oil on canvas. From http://www.Christian.Art.com.

What a wonderful story of healing and faith, of seeing and following Jesus! “Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way.” Today the gospel reminds us to take a critical look at ourselves to root out whatever it is that keeps us from seeing who Jesus is like self-centeredness and pride, preoccupation with fame and wealth, or our toxic relationships and painful past we could not let go.

See how Bartimaeus “threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus” upon being called from the roadside. That is the key to any real prayer, of encountering and meeting Jesus when we are willing to let go of whatever we have, of letting ourselves be stripped naked before God without any ifs and buts, offering him our very selves.

Moreover, it is not enough to be healed of our blindness in faith; the truest sign of having our sights back, of being healed from blindness is to leave the roadside to follow Jesus “on the way”.

Again, we hear from St. Mark using that word “way”: last month Jesus asked his disciples what were they arguing along the way and no one could answer him because they were discussing who was the greatest among them. In the healing of Bartimaeus, there is that beautiful imagery of Jesus our way, truth and life; of Jesus passing by, calling everyone to come to him, to leave the roadside and walk with him on the way to Jerusalem like Bartimaeus.

In this critical period of our history when we are celebrating the 500 years of the coming of Christianity while we are in the midst of a crucial election campaign period on the second year of a crippling pandemic, we are all called by Jesus to leave the roadside like Bartimaeus to join him on the main road, to journey with him, and most of all, to carry our cross with him.

Joining Jesus on the main road with his Cross means becoming his very presence among other people too. Discipleship is more than seeing and following Jesus – it means setting aside our false securities and “springing up” from our comfort zones in order to give ourselves to others too.

Discipleship is walking with God, walking with his people, bringing them joy and hope while in the midst of sufferings like the prophecy of Jeremiah in the first reading: “Behold, I will bring them back from the land of the north; I will gather them from the ends of the world, with the blind and the lame in their midst, the mothers and those with child; they shall return as an immense throng” (Jer.31:8).

Yes, this has been fulfilled by Jesus in his coming but the journey continues to this day with his faithful disciples who guard against all kinds of blindness within, leaving the roadside of comforts to meet and share Jesus on the dusty road of life.

Many times, Jesus is passing by the road invisible to many, unnoticed by many due to various kinds of blindness. Jesus wants us all to be with him, to join in his journey to light, to freedom, to peace and to joy. Everybody is invited to leave the roadside and hit the main road with Jesus.

Let us be open to listen to his coming, to his calls.

Most of all, let us beg him for mercy to open our eyes, to heal us from the many blindness we have so we may see and meet him, love and follow him always. Amen.

Have a blessed week ahead!

Photo by Mr. Jay Javier, Quiapo, January 2020.

Remembering our call

The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Monday, Week XXVIII, Year I in Ordinary Time, 11 October 2021
Romans 1:1-7   ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*> + ><]]]]*>   Luke 11:29-32
Photo by author, 2019.
Praise and glory to you,
O God our loving Father
who has called us through
Jesus Christ your Son 
to be your servants.
As we begin this brand new
week of work and school, 
let us be reminded
of this great honor from you
that we have taken for granted,
even forgotten and disregarded.
May we learn from St. Paul
to take pride in this calling
to be your servant.

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an Apostle and set apart for the Gospel of God… among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 1:1, 6-7
In Baptism, we have been called
to be your servant and apostle,
most of all called to be holy
like you, God our Father;
help us recapture the beauty
and honor of this call from you;
enable us to activate this call in us
set apart as a people for a very special
mission especially in this time of the
pandemic.
Most of all, let us remember today
your call for us to witness to Jesus Christ
and his Gospel of salvation through the
particular circumstances of our lives
lest that day of judgment catch us by
surprise immersed in sin and evil,
forgetting the sign of Jonah 
and Nineveh (Lk.11:29-32).
Amen.

Keep us calm, Lord

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Tuesday, Week XX, Year I in Ordinary Time, 17 August 2021
Judges 6:11-24   ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'> + ><]]]]'>   Matthew 19:23-30
Photo from Facebook, April 2020.
You know so well the hardships
we are all into these past months,
God our Father.
And you must have heard all our 
complaints to you, even those we
have kept in our hearts for you also 
know how we feel like Gideon.

Gideon said to him, “My lord, if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are his wondrous deeds of which our fathers told us when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ For now the Lord has abandoned us and has delivered us into the power of Midian.”

Judges 6:13
You are so kind, dear God
in allowing us to bring out to you
what we feel which after all, we cannot
hide from you; and here lies your blessing:
after allowing us to recognize before you 
the problems and misery we are into, 
you send us to work on its solution.

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go with the strength you have and save Israel from the power of Midian. It is I who send you… Be calm, do not fear. You shall not die.” So Gideon built there an altar to the Lord and called it Yahweh-shalom.

Judges 6:14, 23-24
We all want peace,
we all desire a world with less
pains and sufferings like an end
to this pandemic but no one among us
would dare to follow your instructions,
your commands to do our part in finding
solutions to our many problems in life,
in doing our part in alleviating the pains
and sufferings of the sick and dying
for until now we have refused to give up
and surrender our selves to you, Lord.
We are afraid of detaching from whatever
or whomever attachments we have,
so we can be truly free for you and for others.
Most of all, we are afraid to get hurt,
to lose and to get lost in order to have you
and find life and fulfillment.
Give us the grace to realize
and keep in mind always
your Son's words today:
"For men this is impossible,
but for God all things are possible."
(Matthew 19:26)
Keep us calm, Lord, amid
the darkness and uncertainties
around us these days of the pandemic.
Amen.

God our rock, our life

The Lord Is My Chef Breakfast Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Thursday, Memorial of the Dedication of St. Mary Major, 05 August 2021
Numbers 20:1-13   ><)))*> + ><)))*> + ><)))*>   Matthew 16:13-23
Photo by Vigie Ongleo, 03 August 2021, Singapore.
Glory and praise to you, 
O God, our loving Father!
You are our rock and foundation, 
our life and meaning especially
when dark clouds hover above us.
Bless us on this eve of our lockdown
due to a surge in COVID-19 infections.
May the responsorial psalm be our prayer too:
"If today you hear the voice of the Lord,
harden not your hearts."
Your words today speak a lot
of your goodness and holiness
and of our sinfulness;
so many times we have been like 
your people at the wilderness with Moses:
always grumbling and complaining
at the slightest discomforts and difficulties,
easily forgetting your many blessings
like when they were at Meribah
and Massah without water to drink.
Then, raising his hand,
Moses struck the rock twice
with his staff, and water gushed 
out in abundance for the peoples
and their livestock to drink.
But the Lord said to Moses
and Aaron, "Because you were not
faithful to me in showing forth my 
sanctity before the children of Israel,
you shall not lead this community 
into the land I will give them."
(Numbers 20:11-12)
Forgive us, dear God, when even
like Moses whom you trusted so much
we falter in our faith in you, giving in 
to our "small" doubts of you that like him
we disobey your "little" instructions -
instead of speaking and just raising his staff 
before the rock at Meribah, he struck it twice,
 doubting you and your words 
but despite that, you still let waters
gush forth for the peoples and their animals.
The situation is so different at Caesarea
of Philippi, the pagan capital north of Israel
blessed with plenty of water where Jesus
stopped and asked his disciples what people say
 who he is, their answers were so varied 
like our answers these days because we rarely 
get to know you personally, always focused
on your blessings than your very self!
Forgive us, O Lord, for always forgetting you,
when there is plenty of "water" like at Caesarea Philippi.
He said to them,
"But who do you say that I am?"
Simon Peter said in reply,
"You are the Christ, the Son
of the living God."
Jesus said to him in reply,
"Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah.
for flesh and blood has not revealed
this to you, but my heavenly Father.
And so I say to you, you are Peter,
and upon this rock I will build
my church, and the gates of the
netherworld shall not prevail against it."
(Matthew 16:15-18)
Open our minds and our hearts,
let Jesus reign in us, revealing to us
your plans and your will, God our Father;
let us be faithful to you in the Church
Christ had founded as vessel of your grace
and salvation to nourish us in this earthly journey;
as we celebrate the memorial of the dedication
of St. Mary Major in Rome, may we remain 
united and faithful with the Mother Church
led by the Pope as successor of Peter, the Rock.
Amen.